Information Literacy by Design [Thinking]

Design thinking. It’s that abstract concept that you’ve probably heard about in association with makerspaces. It’s also a big buzzword in the world of education reform. I’m tempted to define it as ‘that thing you do when you design something.’ That’s about as clear as mud. A better definition is ‘the creative problem solving process that culminates in the construction of something that meets a need.’

Architects do it. Engineers do it. Even artists and writers do it. I do it for instructional design.

I think this documentary trailer explains it the best:

So, how does design thinking relate to information literacy? Information literacy skills are necessary for the design thinking process, and the design thinking process develops information literacy skills.

Focusing on academic information literacy, original research is an excellent example of something that benefits from design thinking. Identifying a new problem or a new perspective on an existing problem, then designing a research study to test that problem exercises design thinking. It also exercises information literacy. I see them as having a sort of parallel (and sometimes merging) relationship.

We know that students need information literacy skills to be successful in school, in career, and in life. Intrinsic in the information literacy process are critical thinking and problem solving skills. So it stands to reason that bringing the concept of design thinking into information literacy instruction just might provide the boost students need to become better thinkers and problem solvers.

Here are a few ways you can do that in different IL skills areas:

  • Instead of just demonstrating database searching, have students create their own database searching instruction. Depending on your resources and time constraints, this could be something as simple as step-by-step written instructions or as complex as an online tutorial that utilizes screencasting and quizzes.  The goal here is that students would be creating something that someone else can learn from successfully.
  • Instead of telling students the what and why of quality information sources, have them figure it out. Give them two or three sources – same topic, different levels of quality. Then instruct them to create a checklist, decision tree or rubric that would help others identify the criteria to look for in a quality source.
  • Advocate for more original research projects. Complexity should be dependent on age and stage of development, and could range from an interview or simple survey to a mixed methods approach.
  • Give a new twist to the argumentative paper. Have students construct an argument visually, with the use of images or infographics. For more information, check out Purdue OWL: Visual Rhetoric and my previous posts on visual literacy and infographics.
  • Embrace the authorship approach.

Did you notice the common theme among the suggestions above? They all require students to design or create something. And they all require a great deal more thinking than what many students are currently accustomed to in the classroom. But that’s what it takes to develop design thinking skills. And that’s what it takes to develop information literacy skills.



8 thoughts on “Information Literacy by Design [Thinking]

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