is Information and
Technology Literacy and
Why is it Important?
by Bill Breitsprecher
Information technology is the driving force behind our "new-world"
economy. Information technology skills represent information
gathering, organizing, and problem solving tools that students will
need to be successful in their education and build careers.
Most parents want their children to have computer skills. Today, few
would argue against the importance of computer literacy. Reasonable
people, however, can disagree about what skills represent computer
literacy. Keyboarding is probably part of that skill set, as are
software applications like word processing/desktop publishing, Web
browsers, and even email.
Is this enough? Knowing HOW to use technology is important, but the real
skill is to use technology to identify information needs, research,
organize, communicate, and solve problems. Creating lists of specific
tasks utilizing technology, by itself, will not move us towards
meaningful information and technology literacy. Applying a set of
technology skills in different contexts, situations, and actually solve
problems represents authentic life skills.
So is information and technology literacy important for today's
students? It is when we define it as learning how to learn. The world
has changed dramatically as we move forward into the 21st century. Yes,
reading, writing, and arithmetic are important; but is everything we need
to know found in traditional style textbooks?
Most of us that have been in the workforce for more than 10 years have
seen that the skills we need to survive constantly change -- the pace of
this change is accelerating. Web-based technology not only allows us
more direct access to sources of information that are continually
changing, they expand the walls of our schools, libraries, and even home
offices and play spaces.
The good news is that locating information has never been easier -- a
variety of documents in different formats are widely available in
viewable, printable, and downloadable versions. Intellectual access
to this information, however, requires strategies that encompass
defining needs, locating relevant sources, analyzing, evaluating,
synthesizing, creating, and sharing.
These are higher-level skills, actually processes that involve fairly
complex, constantly changing perspectives and technologies. Pretty
intimidating stuff -- yes, today we demand that schools document student
learning and academic achievement. Is it really possible to move
students with diverse needs towards these outcomes while continuing to
improve academic achievement on core academic subjects?
Perhaps it would be more meaningful to ask:
"Can we expect equitably
empower diverse learners to achieve high levels of academic achievement
without building the information skills that underlie all learning?"
Core academic skills are important; resources to support that
learning are increasingly available in different formats and styles.
"Learning how to learn" means identifying information needs and locating
and utilizing appropriate resources to meet those needs. Due to the
nature of today's information formats and retrieval tools, technology
skills are inherently part of most any information search.
Rather than ask if an emphasis on information and technology literacy
somehow distracts from academic achievement, it may be more relevant to
ask if we can really expect to raise academic standards without teaching
relevant skills that form the foundation of learning. In that context,
we see that information and technology literacy enhances all instruction
across the curriculum.
In 1998, Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Information and
Technology Literacy were published. The idea was to identify and
define the knowledge and skills relating to access, evaluation, and
use of information and technology that today’s students need to
These standards have been created for integration into all other
content areas of the school curriculum and represent essential skills
that focus on learning within information and technology rather than
learning about information and technology.
The implementation of these standards is the responsibility of all
school instructional and administrative staff. In terms of technology,
Wisconsin’s standards state that, “computer literacy objectives and
activities shall be integrated into the kindergarten through grade 12
sequential curriculum plans”
Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Information and Technology
Literacy bring together two new national standards that address
information and technology standards. The 2 national standards are the
National Educational Technology Standards for Students published by
the International Society for Technology in Education and the
Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning developed jointly
by the American Association of School Librarians and the Association
for Educational Communications and Technology.
DPI’s publication Information & Technology Literacy Standards Matrix
presents how these skills are correlated across the 4 assessed
standards of English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social
Studies. Working collaboratively, academic skills can be taught and
reinforced while building technology and information literacy skills.
For more information about specific examples across the curriculum,
please see your Library Media Specialist.
Academic Standards Definitions
All Wisconsin Model
Academic Standards have been created with content and
performance standards. Many also include performance indicators.
- Content standards represent general statements that describe
what students should know and be able to do. For example, “Students in
Wisconsin will select and use media and technology to access,
organize, create, and communicate information for solving problems and
constructing new knowledge, products, and systems.”
- Performance standards tell how students will show that they are
meeting the content standard.
- Performance indicators (listed by DPI under content standards
with bullets) describe specific activities that indicate proficiency
of a given performance standard.
Five!" Research Process
Knowing when you need information, how to find it,
and being able to evaluate and organize are important skills. Information literacy
enhance our personal lives, school work, and careers. Thinking about "reseach"
as a process helps. The most popular method presented in schools is the
Big6. "Take Five!" presents a simple system that emphasized
research as a series of tasks. The results can be used to create any type of project.
We will not talk about the final product here -- it
may be a report, speech, multi-media project, Web page, video, or
any other type of presentation. We will focus on gathering and
evaluating information before actually using that information. Different
projects, in different formats, require different approaches. If you
want more information about writing, please check out
Mr. B's Writing
Quick Tips for some "tips & tricks" and links to other Websites that
cover virtually all aspects of a writing project.
"Take Five!" Research Process
Define Need or Topic
While we have presented these processes as a numbered
list, in practice, it is not sequential. We are defining a set of tasks. At any point in the process, it may be
valuable or appropriate to "revisit" what we have done. Preliminary
research can help us shape and refine our need or topic. The
availability of suitable sources may require us to do more preliminary
research to help us discover better keywords and subject headings. To
get the most out or "Take Five!," do not consider it
a linear set steps.
Task 1: Define Need
or Topic. The first part of any
research project is to think about what you want to accomplish. In
school, teachers often assign topics or general subject areas. Most
of us will enjoy a project more
if it is based on something we are personally interested in.
When looking for ideas for topics or themes, there are
Web sites that can help, try
Hot Paper Topics,
Task 2: Preliminary Research.
Let's look at an example. Reverend Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. lived a rich life that touched many people. The life
and times of Dr. King could support a wide array of topics. It's a good idea to do a little preliminary research on a general topic
BEFORE selecting a specific topic. This helps us think about what
aspects of our general topic will be most interesting. Consulting an
encyclopedia can be a great way to do some quick, basic research.
Be sure to check out the reference section of your library or try
Task 3. Locate Sources. Once you have a fuller
understanding of what you are looking for, it will be easier to do
meaningful research. Use a variety of sources in different formats --
a reference librarian or library media specialist can help you get
started finding material in their collection. Libraries are organized
to provide "intellectual access" to resources. This means that
information is organized so that you can find it based on ideas, topics or
For information about search strategies, check out the
resources at breitlinks.com's
Reference and Bibliography links. You will find basic and
advanced search strategies as well as sources for a variety of
information in various formats.
versus Subject Headings
Most of us are familiar with keyword
searches, where computers scan for the occurrence of terms in a
document. Keyword searches can be good places to start and
represent how most search engines like
MSN Search, and
Ask Jeeves work. You
can also do keyword searches in most electronic library catalogs, but
to really take advantage of how libraries are organized, you have to
look for subject headings.
The problem with keyword searches is that many search
terms will appear in a variety of different contexts from different
documents. Keyword searches can generate many results, but the
results may represent such a broad range of topics that the search
becomes unmanageable. For example, a search on AIDS will retrieve
items on aids for the hearing impaired, school aids, AIDS (the
Professional librarians organize collections by
subject headings, carefully used terms that collect resources that
relate to specific topics. The advantage of using subject
headings is that, once you locate appropriate subject heading for your
search, the results will be more useful for your research. When
using an online library catalog, try using keyword searches to get
started. When you find a good resource for your needs, see what
subject headings have been used to catalog it. Then, do a
subject heading search for similar resources. Usually, this just
requires clicking on those subject headings, conducting a new search.
You can also try to use these subject headings as
keywords searches too. Many documents that present common or
overlapping information will not appear together in searches that are
done by keywords. Subject headings provide connections between
similar resources, even when these documents do not contain the same
keywords or rankings.
Library collections are organized so that information
can be located by subject (cataloging or "intellectual access") and by
looking at books on shelves, called browsing (classification). Check out the
Library Media page at
for more information about how libraries
catalog and classify information. Of course, you could just
talk to your friendly, helpful local librarian too!
Be sure to take careful notes, being sure to keep
track of what information comes from each source. DO NOT "COPY &
PASTE" OR TAKE NOTES WORD FOR WORD from a given source unless you
intend to directly quote and fully cite a source. Write your notes in
your own words; this is called paraphrasing. Not only does this help you better
understand the information, it helps avoid problems with
plagiarism (stealing someone else's work).
Start by getting the basic facts, dates, statistics,
definitions, and general background information together. Basic
reference books are a great source to document general facts; these will
provide guides to locate more in-depth information about a topic.
When researching a controversial topic, it is especially important to
obtain fact and details from sources that will be acceptable to people
with different views on the topic.
The Internet is full of sources, though it will be an
advantage to have basic facts documented before going online. Remember,
information on the 'net may or may not be "refereed," meaning edited
and fact-checked, by others. Having basic facts BEFORE checking the
Internet will help us when we get to our next task, evaluating the
information we find. For now, be sure that online sources generally
agree with facts from other sources. Don't forget databases
either. Wisconsin provides access to a number of high-quality
information database resources bundled together as "BadgerLinks."
Many libraries and school also have subscriptions for other academic
and professional database.
Task 4: Evaluate Information. Not everything we read
is generally accepted as correct, especially when using the Web. Traditional print sources (books, magazines, newspapers,
etc.) have editors and publishers that work with authors to be sure
information reflects standards -- this doesn't mean that the
information is "better" or "more true." It means that we can easily
and judge the quality of these source based on the publisher's
reputation. Savvy information users evaluate ALL information they
find based on:
- Accuracy. The first step when evaluating is to be sure
that information generally agrees. This is why starting a research
project by looking at the reference section in a library is a good idea.
- Basic information and concepts should be the same from source
to source. If not, be careful.
- Sources that contain errors, even many "typos," should be used
with care. After all, if a source did not take the time to verify
the basics and present it in reasonably correct form, why should
anyone believe the rest of the information in that6 source.
- Always look to see if a source is advocating and idea or
contains bias. Be careful when a source has an "agenda" or strong
point of view. The information may or may not be good. It is
likely that the information does not fully present other points of
- Authority. Why is this source qualified to give you
information? Are they an "expert?" If so, are their credentials
clearly identified? Are they affiliated by another organization,
company, or institute? If so, is there bias?
- Can you tell who is the publisher? This is easy with
traditional print sources, but can be difficult on the Web.
- Is there contact information? Does the author indicate that
they are open to hearing from others or fielding requests for
clarifications or additional information?
- Content. What type of information is being presented and
how does the author intend the information to be used? Does the
author identify any limitations for their work?
- Who is the intended audience? Students should be careful that
sources are appropriate for their grade level.
- Is the purpose of the information to inform, advocate, or
sell? This usually determines it completeness. In general,
sources that only seek to inform present a more balance view than
those that promote ideas or sell products and services.
- Currency. Information has a time value -- even
historical information get reviewed and revised over time. Just
because an idea was generally accepted in the past does not mean it
is accepted today.
- Some information can come from older sources and still be
valid. Try to find current information.
- Dates of birth and death and some other types of facts are
likely to be accurate even when a reliable source becomes old.
- Be careful, some information from older sources has
little or no value today. Traditional print sources clearly
identify when they were published -- be careful with Web pages.
If you cannot identify the date that a site was created or
updated, it is probably not a good source. Check the links on a
Web page; if they do not work or are not being kept up to date,
the rest of the information is probably not being updated either.
- Documentation. Even when a site is accurate,
is content appropriate, and current; be sure to look for documentation
where the author obtained their facts. When a source intends to
inform, the author usually identifies their sources or resources for
- Does a source contain a bibliography or identify the sources
that were used to create a resource? Does this list of sources
appear fairly comprehensive or balanced?
- Are the sources that were used to create a resource also
reasonably current? If other Web pages are part of the list of
sources, are they still working links?
Task 5: Document Sources.
Keeping track of where
information comes from is an important part of the research process.
Representing the work of another person as your own is plagiarism --
it is stealing. Students can expect to be disciplined or receive
failing grades if they plagiarize. It is also possible to be sued.
Like every other law, copyrights demand compliance. Using someone
else's work without permission or under "fair use" without citing the
source if a violation of intellectual property rights. For more
information about copyrights, check out the
copyright issues link at
On a more positive note, documenting sources when
conducting research makes the job easier. Few things will be more
frustrating than having to go back and find the original source from
some fact, figure, quote, or piece of information AFTER deciding to
use that material in a project. It is much easier to keep track of
where ALL information comes from BEFORE starting to create a project.
Keeping track of sources while gathering information will also make it
easier to go back and review good sources to pick up more good
information. Always carefully document the sources that are used when
Teachers often have expectations as to what types of
sources are valid for a term paper or presentation. Many projects,
especially those done in school, will have standard formats to
organize and cite information. If a format is specified, it will be
helpful to write down source documentation in the required format --
this will make it less likely that a given resource will need to be
looked up again because important information is missing. The
most common formats for documentation are
Whether taking notes on note cards, paper, or
computer, clearly identify where information comes from, carefully including all information that will be required to cite
that source. Be sure that you know what format you will use to
cite sources or create a bibliography. This will make it
less likely that you will forget important information that is
required to properly cite your sources.
Conclusion. Do you see that our
research process is designed to help clarify an information need
before actually conducting a full-scale search. Before you fully
decide on a topic; be sure to do some preliminary research, after all,
it will be much easier to create an interesting topic when you check
your understanding before committing yourself to an extensive research
project. Our process focuses on defining needs and then finding
We have chosen to omit how this information is used to
create a specific project, because once we have defined a need,
located appropriate resources, and documents our resources, we are
ready to put that information to work creating any number of
projects. Just remember, sometimes things do not go as planned. Our
process is presented as a set of tasks, not a series of steps. At any
point, the research process may require us to reevaluate our topic,
sources, or how we have evaluated them.
Computers and Language
by Bill Breitsprecher
Since the 1930s,
research has demonstrated that integrating language arts skills in
typewriting and now keyboarding classes does build a variety of
important skills. This should not be surprising because reading
and writing are correlated -- working on one skill builds the other.
Reading and writing underlie virtually ALL school-based learning; they
are fundamental skills to master.
As students become comfortable and functionally
proficient, composing skills are introduced and reinforced. After all,
keyboarding is the way people write today. Studies show
that students write more and will edit and revise their writing more
if they are writing on a computer. While using a computer, by itself,
will not improve writing; coupled with integrated curriculum and
effective teaching, dramatic results are possible.
Effectively implemented, writing with computers
results in students that:
- Are more motivated, on-task, and actively engaged then
when writing with pens and pencils.
- Are more willing to share their work and collaborate
when working with legible work they created on a computer.
- Write more and write better.
While all students perform better, low achieving
students benefit the most from integrating computers with their
writing instruction. Today, a wide range of technologies are
working their way into the classroom. The area where technology can
provide the greatest positive impact on students learning is in the
According to research findings, writing skills are enhanced by
computer usage for the following reasons:
- Students write more efficiently and write more with
- Student's writing becomes more detailed.
- The more students write, the better they become at it.
- Students can learn language structure and grammar with
the use of application software tools such as a spell-check and
While research indicates that computer instruction can
enhance academic performance across student populations, this impact
is greatest with students that perform below class expectations and
"at risk" populations. Alternative delivery methods work,
especially with reading instruction. Computers engage students in an
active learning mode and can be effective components of reading
Because current state and federal laws mandate
improvement of test scores, increasing the performance of
underachieving students is vital - statistically, that is where gains
must be made in standardized test scores. The key is to realize
that computers are much more powerful tools than drill and practice
machines, virtual worksheets, or electronic flashcards.
Effective computer instruction, therefore, needs to:
- Focus on meaning and comprehension
- Apply active learning, analysis, creativity, and
- Support learning across the curriculum
- Deliver a variety methodology and subjects
- Stress reading, writing, integration of different
- Focus on mandated state approved curriculum
- Involve frequent monitoring and evaluation of
and the Writing Process
by Bill Breitsprecher
Writing is a process and getting students to look past
the accomplishments of a first draft is one of the challenges of
teaching and reinforcing writing skills. According to the National
Council of the Teachers of English, the writing process consists of:
- Rough Draft
- Revising with Major Changes in Ideas and Organization
- Editing for Surface Errors Such as Spelling and Grammar
- Publishing the Final Draft for Others to Read
Technology and the Writing Process
Today's computer software makes rough drafts,
revising, and editing much easier and help students locate and correct
surface errors in grammar and spelling. Computers can more fully
connect students with the writing process and allow all learners to
create "professional" looking final drafts.
To successfully integrate computer technology with
writing, however, two factors must be considered to maximize student
- Student Skills
- Teacher Expectations
While all students can benefit from learning to write
with computers, research indicates that low achievers will make the
most dramatic improvements.
Experience applying the writing process is critical.
To write successfully, students must be mature enough to accept
editing and revisions as a normal part of writing, not a punishment.
Learner's keyboarding skills are important if students are going to
adapt computers to the writing process. Students are unlikely to
master word-processing software until they develop comfort and
competency at the keyboard.
Once students develop skills in keyboarding and
software applications, their abilities and attitudes towards writing
improve. They enjoy writing more, think and write better, experiments
more, and want to continue writing on computers.
While teachers must be comfortable with the technology
being used, they must also understand that computers do not replace
them - teachers teach writing. Teachers instruct students how to
take advantage of the computer's unique ability to assist in each
stage of the writing process. As teachers work with students applying
each step of the writing process, a better understanding will emerge
about the computer's role.
Some students find writing skills particularly
difficult to acquire because of the cumbersome process of having to
revise their writing over and over again. Today's computer
technology allows students to create, edit and revise their work
efficiently and proficiently. The key is that students
have solid keyboarding, software, and analytical skills. To
reach across the needs of diverse learners, computers need to be
integrated with the writing process. All students can benefit
from the power of technology.
To increase student engagement and create positive
attitudes, students must be given time to learn to use computers
comfortably. It probably takes a full year of keyboarding and computer
instruction to teach and reinforce the basic computer skills students
need to successfully apply the writing process.
Students are more likely to share their work when they
are able to create documents that approach professional standards.
Computers represent a great vehicle to stimulate cooperative learning.
Research indicates this is an important strategy to improve skills and
should be included in any computerized writing program.
Algebra skills are used in business everyday. In fact,
we probably use the skills that are taught in Math classes much more
often than we realize.
Expressions and Variables
An amount written using numbers and operation signs is called an
expression. An example would be a + b. A symbol that represents
an unknown number is called a variable. For example, the variables in
8x2y3 are x and y.
Equations and Formulas
An equation is a statement showing that two
expressions are equal. The = sign is used to show that equality.
Note that the expressions in an equation may consist of 1 more terms.
For example, the equation 5 + 10 = 15 consists of 2 expressions (5+10
and 15). The expression on the left consists of 2 terms (5 and 10).
When solving equations, we determine one of more unknown terms or
variables. A solution to an equation is found when all variable are
replaced with terms.
Formulas are equations that help us solve specific
problems. They are an important part of Algebra and real-world
problems solving. Excel is an ideal tool to solve a variety of
problems with formulas. So formulas are used so often, that they are
built into Excel. These preset formulas are called functions.
Introducing Excel: The Basics
Spreadsheets are computer programs that let you work
with numbers and text in a grid of rows and columns. Microsoft's
spreadsheet program is called Excel. It is also easy to create charts,
graphs, maps and work with data from other computer applications.
Excel organizes this grid with columns that are identified by a letter
column heading and rows that are numbered. Each square in this grid
(intersection of a column letter and row number) is called a cell.
Each cell can be identified by a unique cell address
consisting of its column heading (letter) and row (number). The top
cell at the left of an Excel spreadsheet has the cell address of A1.
The cell K9 (also known as the dog cell) is the intersection of the
11th column and the ninth row.
Sometimes, it is useful to work with groups of
contiguous cells (cells that touch each other and share common
boundaries). A group of cells is called a range. A range of contiguous
cells can be identified by its upper left cell address, a colon, and
its lower right cell address (i.e. A1:K9)
Each Excel file is called a workbook and consists of a
collection of related spreadsheets called worksheets. These are
stacked like pages in a notebook.
Working With Data
A cell in Excel can hold a number, text, or some type
of mathematical statement. Just like in Math class, we call statements
for calculations a formula. In many ways, spreadsheets are the most
powerful, programmable calculators you can use.
Formulas tell Excel to perform a calculation using
information stored in other cells. For example, the first 10 cells in
column A might contain all the points you have earned for assignments
in a class. You can create a formula to add these numbers up and
display the result.
Formulas can use normal arithmetic operators such as +
(plus), -(minus), *(multiply), and / (divide). When you create
formulas in an algebra class, you use variables to represent the data
you are working with (i.e. you might create an algebraic statement
like x =a+2b).
When creating formulas in Excel, you use cell references for the data
you want to work with. The same formula above could be written
in Excel as =A1+2*B1. Do you see that the statements take a value and
add to it 2 times another value?
Formulas in Excel can be created using basic principals of algebra.
Excel has a number of special built-in mathematical statements. These
save the user the time it would take to create common or complex
formulas. They are also easy to use.
The preset mathematical statements are called
functions. Excel has functions to add up the values of cells in a
range, calculate square roots, determine averages, and perform a
variety of financial and statistical calculations.
Getting Around in Excel
Each worksheet in Excel has more than 16 million
cells. This is more than many of us will use in a lifetime. The cell
the cell that is selected and displays a thicker border is called the
active cell. Immediately above the spreadsheet grid, two white
boxes appear. The smaller one on the left is the name box and displays
the cell address of the active cell. The longer white box to the right
is called the formula bar and displays the contents of the active
Excel provides a variety of ways to move around the
cells. You can always just point and click with the mouse. Here are
some keyboard commands as well: Arrow Keys: moves active cell 1
row or column in direction indicated; Page Up/Down: Moves active cell
1 screen as indicated.