Anthony Pash started out by providing an introduction to the concept of critical information literacy. He believe that CIL started to gain currency in 2006. He also recommended exploring the Frankfurt school of philosophers to further understand the theories of critical pedagogy. Much of his introduction and exploration of CIL I have done earlier in the semester but there were two unique takeaways that I want to remember. First he pointed out that the functions of critical theory has the expressed goal of increasing freedom and decreasing oppression. This explains the emphasis on social justice. Also he referenced Ira Shor's essay on critical literacy which I am not familiar with.
Next Carrie Donovan spoke, she focused on the application of these theories. She explains that theory is the how and why of teaching, and as librarians we pretty much have the "what" covered thanks to the ACRL standards. Donovan thinks CIL is important for librarians because it can take us to the next level by providing a profession wide philosophy. Especially when we operate in a world where information literacy is frequently viewed as a response to technology and being "overloaded" with information, we need CIL to point out that is not the case. Carrie defined praxis as:
Praxis = pedagogical action that cannot be reduced to tasks and action, propels us towards self reflection and contextualization.
Praxis is a means of constant questioning. As librarians we are constantly questioning but it's not a purposeful questioning for reflective purposes. She then closed with a specific example. In the example she was teaching an upper division gender studies students and they had to find an article related to their course readings and analyze it during an in class discussion. The gender studies students started talking about the sociocultural context of the article and the gender of the author, while Carrie was expecting them to focus on what journal it was written it and what are the author's credentials. It was much more critical, the students were used to thinking that way because they were coming from a feminist classroom. This experience taught her to value our student perspectives and aim for this for this type of discussion more often. In our own teaching practices how can we bring out underrepresented voices? CIL is not something that just supports our students, the how and is also important for our libraries. Theory can help us when it comes to advocacy and explaining why we matter.
Finally, Dunstan McNutt focused on the epistemological concerns of CIL. This was broken down into three parts: 1) Critique of information literacy standards as a positivist epistemology 2) How are educators looking at epistemology? 3) A functional model. He began by discussing a student who was working on a research paper that looked at enhanced interrogation techniques. The student specifically needed scholarly sources and wanted to find information that supported his existed worldwide in which enhanced interrogation is useful and should be practiced. This example set the stage for critiques of the ACRL standards. Below is another useful definition:
Positivism = the only true knowledge is that which is developed through scientific method.
Many critiques of the ACRL standards claim that they are positivist, but that isn't what McNutt sees. Information literacy should be understood somewhere in the middle of the positivism scale, mainly because there are knowable truths. Our values do effect the way we evaluate information, but it shouldn't be our research filtered through their values. Back to the student example, "dude... do you know what they do in waterboarding?". Going in with preconceived notions and then the research changed that, it challenged him and caused him to look at evidence in a different way. This is what we need to do with helping our students evaluate information. He suggested contextualism as an epistemological model for understanding CIL. There are truths that we can know though contextualism. For example, when we evaluate information we can think about the content, what would it look like if this wasn't true? This default and challenge method can be a great task for our students. Do we have good justification for viewing something a certain way?
They also provided a Zotero Bibliography of additional sources on CIL.
For those of you who were there, did I leave out anything important? What are you still pondering?
I really wish I would have been able to hear the questions the audience were asking and to see the discussion. I was able to catch some of it out of context when this session happened through the twitter hashtag #criticalinfolit
I was not familiar with positivism, the Frankfurt school, and some of the other theorists mentioned so I'm really looking forward to reading some sources on the bibliography.
Overall, I'm excited that CIL is becoming a more mainstream topic in library instruction and I think engaging in a conversation about our philosophical underpinnings can only help us as educators and as a profession. I can't wait to continue to hear more about this in the future, especially as I start my professional career. It's now super official, I will be the new Assistant Prof. of Library Science and Instruction/Reference Librarian at University of Wisconsin Superior.