Introduction to Information Literacy in the K12 Classroom/Chapter 5
Information Literacy and Differentiation 
Differentiated instruction addresses the challenge of fully engaging a classroom of students with a variety of learning styles and abilities. It involves adjusting the curriculum, teaching strategies, and classroom environment to meet the needs of all students. Differentiation tailors instruction to each individual’s diverse learning styles and abilities since all students do not learn in the same way or at the same pace (Lewis, n.d.). A differentiated classroom respects the heterogeneity among and between learners and modifies the curriculum so that learning, growth, and individual success are maximized for all students (Peterson, 2006).
Through assessment of students’ skills, interests, background knowledge, readiness, and preferences in learning styles, teachers gain insight on the most appropriate ways to differentiate instruction to diverse learners who are studying within the same curriculum (Hall, 2002). The range of diversity may include differentiation to be based on special needs or gifted abilities (Haywood, n.d.). Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligencesincludes tailoring the content, process, and products to meet learning preferences as displayed in the figure below. Assessment is also used as a reflective tool to continually adjust instruction to optimize the learning experience.
In order for differentiation to be successful, there needs to be an appropriate balance of teacher-selected and student-selected options. The teacher uses a variety of instructional strategies that are principle driven. Clearly established goals and criteria are present as students work in a flexible range of collaborative settings (Hall, 2002). Through differentiation, the teacher respects the needs of all students and modifies the learning environment to meet them.
Information literacy provides students with the knowledge and skills to effectively access information, while accurately evaluating and assessing that information to see if it is what is needed. True information literacy calls upon a combination of a rich variety of skills and knowledge. If educators are to instill such skills into a classroom with a diverse community of learners, differentiation must be employed. These particular Information Literacy skills include questioning, identifying and collecting, evaluating, sense making, reflecting and refining, using, and assessing information and resources. Specific lesson plans to implement and teach these skills can be found at the 21st Centuries Literacies.
A key to motivating students in any learning situation is to connect the information to the real world. If students can understand how knowledge they are learning in a classroom relates and can be applied to situations outside the schoolroom walls, they will better comprehend the information and be more motivated to learn. Going further, if educators differentiate their lessons, students will have an added incentive to learn through a lesson designed to meet their learning needs. A variety of strategies can be utilized by teachers that develop students' information literacy while differentiating in ways that motivate the learner. The following table summarizes Barbara Gross Davis's (1993) strategies for increasing student motivation in the classroom.
Though an independent process, information literacy is best taught as an integration within the content areas. There are four main types of learning approaches that teachers can utilize to incorporate the acquisition of information literacy skills while meeting the learning needs of individual students. Those approaches are:
- Resource-based learning:
- Students construct meaning through an interaction with a wide range of print, non-print, and human resources.
- A unit on the solar system can use the resource-based learning model as an example. Students can examine the solar system through books, websites, posters, charts, videos, and perhaps even a trip to an observatory.
This Power Pointprovides ideas for using the RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) strategy to differentiate content and provide students with choices for self-directed learning. This is an excellent cross-curricular strategy that provides teachers with ready-made ideas to start "RAFTing" today.
Another great differentiation strategy is using graphic organizers. This presentation will explain the concept and provide ideas for implementation.
This lesson plan template will guide you with questions that aide in the creation of a differentiated lesson.
- Students learn by doing
View the Inquiry Learning Video at Thirteen.org
- A unit on the solar system One example of an inquiry-based lesson that also incorporates technology is to teleconference students researchers working in the field to ask them questions regarding a particular unit of study.
View the Inquiry Learning Video at Thirteen.org
- Problem-based learning:Students collaborate to solve problems and reflect on their experiences.
- One way to incorporate problem-based learning into the classroom would be a lesson in which students role play, assuming roles such as town manager, parents, school boards officials, architects to determine the best use of an inheritance. Should they build a new library or a recreational center?
- Project-based learningStudents explore real-world problems and challenges. For example, Scholastic offers a lesson in which students create a World War II memory book.The site explains how to interview people who lived and possibly fought during the war as well as how to publish the results of their interviews.
View the Edutopia video to generate more ideas on Problem Based Learning
Using the above models can help teachers not only provide lessons that are exciting, but they also differentiate lessons. They would be motivating as well because students can make connections across the curriculum. In addition, they show students how knowledge learned inside the classroom can connect to the world outside the classroom. Adding technology and Web 2.0 tools can further students' development of information literacy. These may include student blogs were they may reflect on reading assignments so that they can better evaluate and assess knowledge or creating oral family history podcasts as a means to question the world around them in an attempt to better understanding it.
"Innovations in technology have facilitated the use of these methods and learning approaches and often revitalize students' interest in learning. Engaging students in the learning process - encouraging them to ask and answer questions, having them use a rich variety of resources, providing real-life situations to help them grasp content, and creating learning environments where they can work collaboratively with others to further their understanding of curriculum - is what helps them gain lifelong learning information skill" (AT&T Education, 2008).
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Best Practices. (2003). Resource-based learning. Retrieved June 18, 2008, from http://www.centralischool.ca/~bestpractice/resource/index.html
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Edutopia. (2008). Why teach with project learning? Retrieved June 19, 2008, from http://www.edutopia.org/project-learning-introduction
Ed Magazine Online. (1998). A journey through space. Retrieved June 21, 2008, from http://english.unitecnology.ac.nz/resources/units/planets/home.html
Hall, T. (2002). Differentiated Instruction. Wakefield, MA //National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum//. Retrieved June 15, 2008 from http://www.cast.org/publications/ncac/ncac_diffinstruc.html
Haywood, E. (n.d). The multiple intelligences. //The Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning.// Retrieved June 27, 2008 from http://www.mcmel.org/erica.mi/mainpage.html
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. (2005). PBLN @ IMSA overview. Retrieved June 18, 2008, from http://www.imsa.edu/programs/pbln/overview/mission.php
Kumar, M., Natarajan, U., & Shankar, S. (2005). Information literacy: a key component to students' learning. //Malaysian Online Journal of Instructional Technology, 2//, p. 50-60. Retrieved June 20, 2008, from http://pppjj.usm.my/mojit/articles/pdf/August05/05-Article-035-Muthu%20Kumar-Singapore.pdf
Lane, C. (n.d). The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide. Retrieved June 19, 2008 from http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html
Lewis, S. (n.d.). Differentiated Instruction: Success for Every Student. //Topics in Education//. Retrieved June 15, 2008, from http://cainc.com/professional-development/topics/DiffInstruction/index.htm
Peterson, J. (2006). Retrieved June 15, 2008 from http://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/resources/downloads/talentw06.pdf
Scholastic. (2008). Create a WWII memory book. Retrieved June 21, 2008, from http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/wwii/memory/index.htm
Thirteen Ed Online. (2004). Workshop: inquiry-based learning. Concept to Classroom. Retrieved June 18, 2008, from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/inquiry/index.html