“Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms”

 "Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms"














To mark the 10th anniversary of Project Information Literacy,  PIL has released a special research report about the future of information literacy among college students in today’s fast-moving information environment.

The report examines college students’ awareness of and concerns about how algorithms are shaping the news and information they receive
from internet giants, such as Google, Amazon, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.  It reveals that students are skeptical of and unnerved by tools that track their digital travels and serve them personalized content like advertisements and social media posts.

Students feel like they’ve largely been left to navigate the internet’s murky waters alone, without adequate guidance from teachers and professors,  relying largely on their peers, or their own judgement, to learn about how algorithms affect information.

The report includes ideas to support faculty in teaching algorithm literacy in their classrooms.  

Additional information and links to resources are posted in the Benedictine Library’s Information Literacy: Teaching and Learning Guide.

Happy Open Access Week!







In her article Writing on the Unpaywall , Barbara Fister provides a helpful update on the current state of open access publishing.

Also of interest to our CoLA colleagues is Humanities Commons an open access option for Humanities scholars and The Educator’s Guide to Humanities Commons that lists four Humanities Commons tools and resources that educators may find helpful.

The article Open Access and Students in Information Literacy Class: A Quest for Understanding  discusses ways to introduce undergraduate students to this new model of scholarly communication.

The Purdue OWL

Are you aware of the recent, disconcerting changes to the Purdue OWL?

Professors at Purdue University are criticizing a new partnership between the university’s Online Writing Lab and student services company Chegg.

At a recent meeting of the University Senate, faculty members questioned why Purdue’s OWL, a respected and influential resource on writing instruction, would partner with a company that has a reputation for helping students to cheat on their homework.

Ralph Kaufmann, a professor of mathematics who attended the meeting, said several professors were surprised and angered by the partnership with Chegg. Some professors said they had found answers to their old exam papers on the site and accused Chegg of copyright infringement, said Kaufmann.   Continue reading …

More thoughts on this issue.

In light of these developments, Benedictine librarians are considering removing links to the OWL in our library tutorials and Research Guides. (Link to the Benedictine Library Citation Guide.)

What are your thoughts on this?  What do you suggest?

“Check, Please!”: Modules to Help Develop Digital Literacy Skills








If you follow this blog, you may recall last November’s post where we introduced the  work of IL expert Mike Caulfield  who encouraged us to rethink our approaches to teaching Information Literacy through his famous fact-checking “moves”.

Our COLA Dean Joseph Incandela recently brought to our attention a  new article (Getting Beyond the CRAAP Test: A Conversation with Mike Caulfield)  in which Mike Caulfield talks about his wonderful new project called Check, Please!  a three hour online module on source and fact-checking that can be dropped into any course or taken as a self-study experience.  The product is freely available to instructors and highly adaptable to any course.

Experiential Learning Toolkit

Would you like some ideas on how to provide our students with effective experiential learning opportunities?  Niagara College has launched an open access Experiential Learning Toolkit  intended to support faculty, staff, and administrators in designing, implementing and evaluating quality experiential learning activities, such as field placements, co-ops, and service learning.

The online toolkit consists of 16 learning modules, tailored for either educational institutions or businesses and community organizations. The modules walk participants through the process of designing, delivering, and evaluating experiential learning programs to help ensure students receive the right skills, experiences, and supports, both from their school and from the business or organization hosting them.

Explore the Experiential Learning Toolkit here: https://www.eltoolkit.ca/

Locating Official Government Information


In this fake-news era in which we are living, it is essential that our students know how to “go to the source” to verify information.  A key source of government information is the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) which provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government including Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and federal agencies.

A series of webcast tutorials is now  available to offer guidance in navigating GPO’s govinfo.gov.  search engine.  Among some of the newer webcasts are:

Recordings are brief—from one to 11 minutes in length.  No prerequisite knowledge is required.  More webcasts will continue to be posted and announced throughout 2019.

New Terms Added to the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms®

The American Psychological Association recently released an update to the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, adding 305 new Index Terms. The Thesaurus provides precise and consistent terminology for searching all APA research databases.

Reflecting emerging areas, technologies, and social issues as well as changing nomenclature, this updated vocabulary will provide searchers with more targeted and efficient search and discovery. Additionally, they have added new terminology in the expanding areas of psychological assessment, psychometrics, and research methods.

You can view more details on the APA web page, What’s New in the 2019 Update, including a link to the full list of new and updated Index Terms (PDF, 135KB).

For more information about using the thesaurus terms in your research, please see the APA Publishing blog.

Need a refresher on how to search the Thesaurus and use Index Terms in your search?  View the APA tutorial:


Communications in Information Literacy: New Issue

Connunications in Information Literacy

Hot off the press!  A new issue of Communications in Information Literacy has just been released.   Articles include:

  • Navigating Roadblocks: First-Year Writing Challenges through the Lens of the ACRL Framework
  • Meeting Students Where They Are: Using Rubric-based Assessment to Modify an Information Literacy Curriculum
  • Everything Online is a Website: Information Format Confusion in Student Citation Behaviors
  • Engendering Social Justice in First Year Information Literacy Classes


Rethinking the C.R.A.A.P. Test

Based on the concerns of some recent studies challenging the effectiveness of using the C.R.A.P. test to detect “fake news”,  perhaps we should consider replacing it with the  “four moves” of fact-checking and source verification suggested by Michael Caulfield in his eTextbook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers These quick and directed moves provide a technique to solve simple scenarios quickly and more complex scenarios in a reasonable amount of time. The four moves he suggests are:

  • Check for previous work. Most stories you see on the web have been either covered, verified, or debunked by more reputable sources. Find a reputable source that has done your work for you. If you can find that, maybe your work is done.
  • Go upstream to the source. If you can’t find a rock-solid source that has done your verification and context-building for you, follow the story or claim you are looking at to it’s origin. Most stories shared with you on the web are recoverage of some other reporting or research. Follow the links and get to the source. If you recognize the source as credible, your work may be done.
  • Read laterally. If you have traced the claim or story or research to the source and you don’t recognize it, you will need check the credibility of the source by looking at available information on its reliability, expertise, and agenda.
  • Circle back. A reminder that even when we follow this process sometimes we find ourselves going down dead ends. If a certain route of inquiry is not panning out, try going back to the beginning with what you know now. Choose different search terms and try again.

The author of the technique, Mike Caulfield,  provides some examples of how this technique might work:

Say you see a story that says that Jennifer Lawrence has died:


Well, has she died?

The ESCAPE method, like the RADCAB and CRAAP methods before it ask you to look at the evidence, think about the source, consider the context, audience, purpose, tone, grammar, style and so forth to figure out whether this is reliable.

The four moves, on the other hand, proposes to answer simple questions first. If Jennifer Lawrence has died, there should be wall to wall coverage of that, right? So check for previous work, and look to see if reliable outlets are covering this. If she is dead, they will be. If she is not, they won’t. Lo and behold, if we type [[Jennifer Lawrence dead]] into Google News we don’t find any stories about her dying:


That’s done in five seconds. But of course not all questions are that easy. Consider the following image found floating around Pinterest:


A short search of Google News doesn’t show any relevant coverage of the study. So let’s go to the next level and see if we can find the source.

There’s a link typed on the image, but rather than deal with that we do a Google Search and immediately hit the jackpot, immediately seeing a Google result on the issue that comes from Harvard.


We can go to that page and find the study is more nuanced than what is presented in the image (and also that there is no race data in the study — the image here is purely an attempt to use the trope of the “angry black women” to get more clicks).

Consider the difference had we spent time looking at the provider of the image for bias, tone, evidence, purpose and the like (a futile process we call “fact-checking the mailman”). By following the moves we quickly get to the most authoritative source for the fact and work from there, in the original context.

Finally, if we don’t trust the original source, or have never heard of it, we can “read laterally” (a term borrowed from Wineburg’s group) and find out more about the organization or publisher. Here we do a quick read on the source of the above study:

public health.PNG

We find that the URL is correct and that the school is considered a leading school of public health in the United States.

These are just a couple of the most simple examples. As you will see in the text of Cauldfield’s text book Web Literacy for Fact-Checkers, the “four moves” technique can be used in more complex scenarios as well.  I hope you take the opportunity to explore both the textbook and Hapgood,  Mike Cauldfield’s activities blog  to help empower our students to make the fast and accurate assessments our current information environment requires.

Any other ideas?