Information Literacy and Why It Is Essential
In the information age, knowing how to identify, acquire, and use data is a valuable skill to possess. Let’s find out why it is so important.
We are living in a digital age where vast amounts of information are created on a daily basis. Statistics show that at least 90% of the world’s digital data have been generated in the past few years alone. In fact, if the statistics are any indication, one interesting interpretation is that if you were to live for 100 years, you would spend your whole life going through less than a day’s worth of information digitally generated today.
When we look at user-generated content online, be it politics, economics, religion, education, or science-related info, there is a lot of new stuff our mind can’t comprehend. We are also living in an era in which fake news and conspiracy theories are multiplying at breathtaking speed. In the face of abundant misinformation, it can be difficult to tell fact from fiction, or truth from lies. Even national governments like that of Russia have been accused of conducting elaborate disinformation campaigns aimed at influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections in the US.
Even media outlets today are not spared the suspicion. Many of them are frequently accused of disseminating propaganda that primarily serves the interest of their owners or governments. This can have devastating implications in the form of biased content. If regular viewers/readers accept the information hook, line and sinker, their understanding and perception of the issues covered may be distorted.
Hence, the incredible amount and variety of information lead to all kinds of challenges. How do you decide where to look for data? Which of it do you collect? How do you use it? Students are often faced with such a challenge when doing their research-heavy assignments. It can be an overwhelming experience, and sometimes they find themselves thinking, ‘Where can I get help to write my essay online for cheap?’
The above issue has spurred the rise of a concept known as information literacy. What does the term mean? Although various definitions have been given for it, we will provide you with one that conveys its core meaning most effectively.
Information literacy can be defined as a set of abilities that enable an individual to find, acquire, evaluate, and use information. It also includes the use of information to create new knowledge and ethically contribute it for the benefit of its likely users.
To be information literate, an individual should be able to recognize what data they need. Once they have, they should demonstrate their ability to find, assess, and use the acquired factual material.
Information literacy implies information competence, information fluency, information skills, information management, and knowledge management.
By now, it should be obvious to you that the concept of information literacy is a powerful one. But why is it essential to have the skill? Let’s find out!
Information Literacy Can Help You Avoid Misleading and Non-Factual Information
As mentioned earlier, information literacy involves finding and evaluating information. This means that it is not just enough to locate web pages, published works or their sections. You should also be able to think critically about the information contained therein. Are the sources of the obtained information reliable? Are they reputable? Do they have a previously stated motive that could explain the nature of the material you have located? Is the information based on facts? Are there any other trusted sources that also support the information? These are the sort of questions that will get you to engage in fact-finding in an objective manner. At the end of it, you’ll have to decide whether to discard the information or accept it.
Your ability to make that evaluation and take decisions means that you’ll be able to identify and avoid misleading and non-factual information over time.
It Can Enable You to Make Well-Informed Decisions and Opinions
Another obvious benefit of being information literate is that you’ll gradually learn to make informed opinions based on facts and research. Even when the connections may not be so obvious to many people, you can connect the dots so as to point out the basis upon which you have formed your opinion and taken decisions.
This particular ability will stand you in good stead far beyond academic circles. Even when undertaking research projects, writing articles and op-eds in widely read media publications, or speaking at conferences or on TV, this skill will continue to make you stand head and shoulders above most of your colleagues.
The most important thing to remember here is that it isn’t so much about making the perfect decisions as it is about showing others how you arrived at them. That clarity is something most people like your arguments for even though they do not agree with them.
It Can Make You a Valued Helper To Improve Other People’s Understanding of Issues
One thing stands out in information literate individuals: they understand what information is relevant and how to use it. As easy as this may sound, in reality, a lot of people won’t qualify as being such.
An implication of this is that those who have painstakingly developed the skill can help others improve their own understanding of various issues. You may not necessarily be knowledgeable on many topics but having this valuable skill may enable you to help a person make sense of the available information. In so doing, you assist them in improving their own approach to using the information and growing their knowledge.
To sum up, information literacy is indubitably a valuable skill to have. But as with most valuable things, it does not come easy. To become information literate, you should practice doing all the main steps it involves. But do not lose hope or give up – just keep practicing and you’ll be amazed how much progress you will make over time.