43 Why is Information Literacy Important?

Information literacy” is a term you’ll hear a lot during your academic career. It means that all students (and all people, really) should be able to find and use reliable information and source materials, and that they should be able to have the right material for whatever it is they’re doing or whatever questions they have.

As humans living in the digital age, we should know how to navigate the Web successfully, find the best materials, and evaluate and use them with confidence. Alas, in an age where a quick Google search nets millions of “hits” in half a second, evaluating the sources we choose can be trickier than it sounds. There’s a lot of great material on the Web, but there’s a lot of garbage, too. Being able to tell which is which is a digital-age-important life skill.

We also need to understand who “owns” information—whether print or digital—and how and when to give credit to the owner; this keeps us safe from accidentally committing plagiarism. Finding dependable information is especially important in the digital/internet age, where millions of ideas can be discovered in half a second but where much of that information is outdated or worthless.

Handling the materials correctly is important, too; this includes giving full credit when using materials created by others.

Exercise: Where can you check the “truth” of online materials?

Snopes is a widely respected, non-partisan site dedicated to investigating rumors, memes, social media statements, and news stories and then issuing decisions about whether the materials are correct or false.

  • Go to Snopes’ “What’s New” page—a page that updates daily and includes the latest rumors
  • Scroll through the list until you find an interesting hot topic. Click and read, then write a quick paragraph that summarizes what you found. What did you learn? Were you surprised?
  • If this captured your interest, you may want to explore Snopes a little more. It’s a fun place to poke around and a great place to fact-check information.

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