Information Literacy Rough Draft

 

Introduction

The Internet has become an essential element of students' daily routines. The scope of its impacts on learning should not be disregarded. More schools around the United States implement information technologies to prepare their students for real-life IT challenges. Unfortunately, the Internet also increases the risks of information failures. On the one hand, the Internet is characterized by increased presence in the classroom. In addition, teachers and students use it to facilitate research processes and advance curricula (Scott & O'Sullivan, 2000). It is bombarding students with abundant information, which can potentially be useful in their studies. On the other hand, "neither all of this information, nor their ease with the computers and Internet that bring much of it to them, are translating into better-educated and informed college graduates or more competent and efficient workers" (Breivik, 2005, p.22).

The goal of this literature review is to explore and evaluate what modern researchers have to say about the impacts of information technologies on students' information literacy. The current state of research considers this relationship mainly through the impact of the Internet on academic plagiarism, students' information literacy and research skills, and the application of Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. Modern researchers are almost unanimous in that the Internet brings tangible advantages, but also requires considerable information literacy skills. The current researches on the Internet and its impacts on information literacy and students' research skills suggest that information technologies facilitate students' access to information. However, only by developing students' information literacy skills educators can ensure that the learning and research potentials of the Internet are used to the fullest.

Information Technologies and Information Literacy

Modern researchers claim that information technology influences students' information literacy skills. However, the relationship between these skills and information technologies may be considered from several different standpoints. First, modern researchers explore the ways, in which students are coping with the growing abundance of information. Second, they warn about the negative implications of information technologies for research and studies. Many researchers address the assumptions, which the public takes for granted. For example, the modern society often assumes that information technologies automatically result in better information literacy and research skills (Breivik, 2005; Gross & Latham, 2009; Hargittai, 2010). According to Hargittai (2010), popular media and empirical research are overfilled with messages of students' inherent talent to be information and communication savvy. This is why contemporary Internet users are often described as "digital natives" (Hargittai, 2010). Gross and Latham (2009) support this line of argument and suggest that "the premise that students must be information literate to be successful in their work and personal lives is one that is embraced by many" (p.336). All these authors share a universal view that information technologies alone cannot improve students' information literacy.

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Scott and O'Sullivan (2000) explored students' perceptions of information literacy skills. In a short web exercise, most students displayed frustration at not being able to process online information effectively (Scott & O'Sullivan, 2000). They realized that, if they failed to critically evaluate Web pages, they would use unreliable data in their works (Scott & O'Sullivan, 2000). This argument is supported by Breivik (2005): anyone can post anything on the Internet. Many users are skillful enough to present their websites as official, while intending to mislead their readers (Breivik, 2005). The patterns of Internet skills development among students are highly uneven (Hargittai, 2010). Gross and Latham (2009) go even further and claim that low information literacy goes hand in hand with students' high levels of self-confidence. This makes the implementation of the Internet technologies more problematic. Although all these studies are non-empirical, they create a cohesive picture of the information literacy problems modern students are facing. The common theme across all of them is that, without adequate information literacy skills, students will hardly manage to use the benefits of the Internet to the fullest (Breivik, 2005; Gross & Latham, 2009; Hargittai, 2010; Scott & O'Sullivan, 2000).

Information Technologies and Academic Plagiarism

The impacts of information technologies on students' information literacy are often considered in the context of plagiarism. Many researchers believe (and provide empirical proofs) that the use of information technologies facilitates and increases the rates of academic plagiarism. However, the results of plagiarism studies differ considerably and create the sense of confusion. Scanlon and Neumann (2002) created a sample of six hundred ninety-eight undergraduates from nine different universities and colleges to identify the incidence of plagiarism among students and their perceptions of plagiarism. The results showed that a substantial minority of students was plagiarizing (using information from the Internet to copy and paste it into their academic papers without any appropriate citation) (Scanlon & Neumann, 2002). By contrast, in Selwyn's (2008) study, three-fourths of students reported moderate Internet plagiarism without any variations by age, gender, educational or social status.

Baruchson-Arbib and Yaari (2004) confirm that students consider Internet plagiarism as less dishonest than the one that involves printed sources. These differences in the study results can relate to variations in research design and sample size. The most concerning issue is that these results are based on the analysis of self-report questionnaires, which raises the questions of reliability and honesty. In line of these findings, it comes as no surprise that most students feel concerned about the use of sophisticated plagiarism detection software in colleges (Savage, 2004). Howard (2007) also recommends developing institutional plagiarism policies, but it is unclear how these propositions address the concerns about students' poor information literacy presented by Breivik (2005), Gross and Latham (2009), Hargittai (2010), and Scott and O'Sullivan (2000).

Web 2.0

The use of Web 2.0 by students and teachers is a topic for a separate issue. Overall, the researchers recognize the untapped learning potentials of Web 2.0 and its usability in various learning contexts (Brown & Adler, 2008; Grosseck, 2009). Gray, Thompson, Sheard, Clerehan and Hamilton (2010) write that Web 2.0 improves students' learning by empowering students to create their own content and express their thoughts more creatively. However, the use of Web 2.0 is not without difficulties. Brown and Adler (2008) state that using Web 2.0 is impossible without creating distributed and shared reflective practicums. Gray et al. (2010) confirm that traditional forms of knowledge assessment do not fit in the new learning atmosphere. Grosseck (2009) is convinced that effective use of Web 2.0 is impossible without careful thinking and thorough research that will help to define the best ways to leverage this technology for students' benefit. The researchers present a complicated picture of modern technologies, where only the most skillful students have a chance to use their learning potentials and avoid failures.

Conclusion

Modern researchers explore the relationship between information technologies and students' information literacy from several different perspectives. They analyze the impacts of information technologies on academic plagiarism and evaluate the learning potentials of Web 2.0. The main theme of all these studies is that, without effective information literacy skills, students will hardly manage to benefit from information technologies. At the same time, the design and sampling strategies of many studies raise the questions of their reliability and validity. Therefore, future researchers will have to validate the current results and translate them into a set of practical models to improve students' information literacy and reduce the scope of plagiarism.

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