Sunday, March 08, 2015

What is I-LEARN?

In my previous post, I describe how I started down the path of exploring I-LEARN for designing information literacy instruction.  After my copy arrived, I read the book so many times and made so many notations it looked like Franny's little book.  I knew I had found where to focus my efforts, and that's what I've done for the last three years.

So what is I-LEARN?  My higher education friends may be surprised to know that it's a learning model which was initially focused on the K-12 environment. (Here's a way to plan a lesson about Australia.  It has since been implemented in my work as well as other universities like this one.) Without straying too far from the purpose of this post, I'd like to emphasize how much librarians in higher education and school media specialists have in common.  We are experts in finding, evaluating, and using information.  We are generally a very dedicated bunch who want very much for our students to learn and succeed, yet we often have little time to work with students directly.  The faculty member/teacher has to decide that information literacy instruction is important enough to set aside time for it and to continue to emphasize its importance beyond the often single library visit.  I like to point out that the main difference between a high school senior and a college freshman is about three months (and it was pretty cool being quoted on that at ECIL 2014).  Anyway, we have much in common, and school media specialists often have an advantage in that many of them have formal coursework related to instructional design, learning theory, educational technology, and so forth, while many of us academic librarians are still muddling around on our own trying to figure things out.  We really should work together and learn from each other more often.  If you are interested in learning more about our similarities and the prominent role school media specialists have played in instructional design and the development of information literacy standards, take a look at chapter two of my dissertation.

Anyway, so from the start, I really liked that I-LEARN was created by someone who has been working with school media specialists for years and is highly regarded in both the instructional design and the library and information science communities.  It's that combination of theory and practice that serves as the foundation for I-LEARN.  The mnemonic is simply Identify, Locate, Evaluate, Apply, Reflect, and kNow.  Typical library instruction focuses on identify, locate, and evaluate.  We're pretty good at those things.  The model digs deeper into those areas and emphasizes the recursiveness of those steps (we all know how research is so much trial and error, but often our students don't).  What sets I-LEARN apart is the combination of these skills with the latter parts of the model which focus on using information--actually thinking about what you've found, synthesizing it into an information product, revising it, rethinking it, maybe going back for more information, and ultimately adding to your own knowledge base through this experience.  You've learned something!

If you read the book, you'll find much more detail on each stage of the model.  Perhaps like me, you will quickly realize that the model would work very well for information literacy instruction; after all, the core focus of the model is learning with information.  You may also realize too that it would work great for building entire lessons or planning an entire course. I've actually built some assignment guides for a library science graduate course using the model, and it helps in breaking down the pieces of say, writing a literature review.  While my next post will focus on information literacy instruction, Dr. Neuman does emphasize that it's more than a library skills model, it's a learning model which could really be used in any environment.  Pretty exciting, huh!

Next post:  I-LEARN: Research and Practice

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