Today's vast information universe feels limitless in ways that can be alternately intimidating and exhilarating. It's difficult enough as educated adults to know where to begin our research, where to head next, and how to chart a course to our final destination; so, it's easy to imagine how our young learners attempting the same process can feel truly "lost in space." This month at SLC we're proudly geeking out with a SciFi-inspired look at how we teach students to navigate our universe of sources.
Dr. Meghan Harper gets us started with a detailed look at the rich variety of ways online resources can be used in information literacy instruction, from teaching search strategies, to information organization, to ethical considerations around copyright, plagiarism and notetaking. Building on this exploration, Lori Donovan in her monthly Setting the Standard column, shows us how the AASL Standards Framework offers us "road signs" as we help our student drivers navigate our intergalactic information superhighway.
The voyages of Spaceship SLC aren't just about warp speed travel, though—what SciFi would be complete without a few alien encounters? While I'm hardly above a little kitsch, my favorite Science Fiction novel of all time might be Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, which chronicles scientists' encounter with a living sea that covers an entire planet and communicates with them in mysterious ways. In Lem's classic novel, the researchers struggle fruitlessly to understand an alien intelligence so utterly un-human they cannot begin to comprehend it.
Our learners are having these encounters all the time. In her discussion of Big Data and filter bubbles, Heather Lister opens a conversation about how students' research lives are shaped by intelligences other than their own, often without their awareness. "While we typically hear the term 'customized' or 'personalized' in a positive light," she writes, "when seeking information, those customizations can actually translate into bias and ignorance... We have trained students to be so focused on what they see (by teaching source evaluation and showing them credible websites), that they aren't spending enough time on what they aren't seeing." Lister then guides us to some of her preferred resources for developing student awareness of the ways their research lives are mediated.
Anita Cellucci in her Full Voice column also offers an essential addendum, reminding us that while today's universe of sources seems infinite, not everyone's "lost in space"—some students are still stuck back on Earth! "It is easy to focus on what is available and forget that not all of our students have digital access," she writes. Working towards diversity and inclusion in source curation, she reminds us, requires librarians to think "beyond what is visible and think about the gaps."
It's a brave new digital world, folks. So, let's strap on our jetpacks and together chart a pathway through this vastly expanding virtual realm!