The existence of science and technology has a significant control over all societal processes. Science assists human beings understand their existence on earth. However, technology enables them acclimatise with the changing survival needs through scientific innovation. For the last one decade, the field of science and technology has significantly revolutionised social structures.
The impact of transformation on the social setting has not only affected individuals but also organisations and the world at large. The day-to-day advancement in science and technology, especially the evident developments in Information Technology (IT), has led to the emergence of new-fangled issues that have in turn led to the urge for further innovation to resolve these issues. Today, it is nearly impossible to break the relationships that exist between science and technology and the society.
As a result, information literacy is inevitable for individuals, communities, and organisations if they have to keep at par with the dynamic nature of science and technology. However, certain issues that arise with the abuse of information literacy have disadvantageous impacts on the society’s knowledge and learning. In the light of information literacy, this essay analyses the relationship and issues that exist between science and technology and the society while at the same time providing acumen on the implications that such relationship have on education.
Information Literacy and the Society
Information literacy is a contemporary issue that has developed both virtues and faults in the modern society. Kumar and Altschuld (2000) attest that information literacy not only pertains to the acquisition of the necessary knowledge about some phenomenal happenings in the society but also it concerns the organisation of such knowledge, identification and isolation of information needs, and the determination of the appropriate methods of evaluating and sharing the acquired information.
Information literacy is an aspect of science and technology that drives individuals to understand the appropriate use of information, identify challenges, and/or attempt to seek suitable resolutions. The significance of science and technology is to furnish the society with new knowledge in an effort to enhance human lives (Kumar & Altschuld, 2000). The need for more advanced science and technology amplifies every time the society faces new challenges.
Since human beings cannot live without science, the 21st century society thrives in a world that is full of innovative ideas. Science, technology, and the society are mutually responsive in nature. Societies have attempted to maintain scientifically and technologically viable means of survival through educational reforms. Information literacy is an important aspect of science, technology, and learning that assumes the varying interests of societies to satisfy contemporary needs. Information creates an interactive environment for the different aspects of the society, ranging from simple communication to security matters.
Kumar and Altschuld (2000) reveal that the society is a major drive that persuades educationists to advocate for information literacy in schools. Some organisations have also promoted the establishment of IT infrastructure in middle level colleges and universities. There is a need for information literate individuals to serve in the social, political, and economic pillars of the society.
The society anticipates benefits from informative scholars. Johnston and Webber (2003) reveal an education programme in Australia where learners exchange scientific knowledge with members of the society through educational workshops. Evidently, the society has a profound interest in the furthering of information technology in learning institutions and instillation of information literacy skills in learners. Parents readily send their children to schools to acquire knowledge that will benefit the society in return.
Information Literacy and Education Systems
The role of information literacy in the society has a great influence on educational processes. Education is a prime means of passing knowledge to the society to stimulate socio-economic development, innovation, and prosperity. The internet is the greatest source of information in the contemporary world. The availability of internet resources implies that individuals have unlimited privilege to access the World Wide Web to seek any kind of knowledge that exists in the virtual space (Gibson, 2012).
The availability of sophisticated gadgets and software has enabled the acquisition of real-time information via laptop computers, tablets, and Smartphones. This technology has profound implications on education. To enhance the growth of knowledgeable societies, researchers and policymakers have encouraged learning institutions to embrace information literacy. The society needs more and progressive knowledge about scientific and technological processes.
Many people do not differentiate the learning of Information Communication Technology (ICT) from information literacy. Information literacy implies a combination of skills that are not limited to the use of technology gadgets. It has a greater sense of knowing and understanding the need for information, the available resources, the methods and relevance of obtaining the intended information, and acknowledging the role of IT in education.
In education, information literacy also pays attention to information ethics and responsibility of use, analysis, and sharing of findings. The obtained reliability and quality of information highly depends on the employed information literacy skills to distinguish between inapt and pertinent information from sources. Information literacy depends on economic, political, and social factors that control the wellbeing of the society (Gibson, 2012).
Upon considering the economic aspect of information literacy, the society needs knowledgeable individuals to perpetuate leadership in both public and private sectors. Nurturing such individuals requires learning institutions to encourage more students to acquire information literacy on a wide range of skills across academic disciplines such as political science, sociology, and biological sciences among other disciplines. As a result, many governments have encouraged and facilitated the establishment of IT infrastructures in learning institutions in a bid to ensure the availability of sufficient information resources for students.
The availability of informative resources has improved the literacy skills for many students in colleges and universities. Johnston and Webber (2003) unveil that science and technology has enabled the education sector to sort out some critical challenges that face the economy for many countries. Additionally, the society needs literate individuals to analyse political information from a variety of internet sources. There is also a need to compare such information to determine crucial political decisions that are viable for the country and the international community.
To realise such political improvements, educationalists, organisations, and the government at large have to ensure the availability of information literate personnel in the relevant political fields. As a result, organisations and governments have persuaded educationalists to initiate information-sensitive political disciplines in institutions of learning.
Perhaps, one of the major functions of information literacy is the perpetuation of knowledge societies (Johnston & Webber, 2003). There is a need to sustain knowledgeable individuals in the society to preserve contemporary technologies for future generations. Modern societies are dependent on science and technology that significantly controls the world’s economies. Therefore, information literacy becomes an inevitable practice in learning institutions. The needs of the society guide the design and purpose of the school curricular.
Contrastingly, the socio-economic and political factors determine the needs of the society at any given time. For instance, the development of technology in the last decade has led to massive technological shifts and advancement of information technology in industries. The urgency of the society to adapt to these global changes has forced learning institutions to necessitate the need for change through the inclusion of information technology and information literacy education in many academic disciplines. Modern-day industrial employment requires informed personnel on such aspects of information technology that relate to industrial production processes. Private and governmental organisations have transformed into technological institutions.
The need for information about the relationship between the society and these organisations is very important for their success. As a result, information literacy comes into play. The contemporary society is not whole without the presence of information literate individuals. Every aspect of the society has direct or indirect influence on the people who thrive in it. Information literacy enables researchers and policymakers to make appropriate decisions to control political, social, and economic factors that influence the way people coexist in a societal setting (Johnston & Webber, 2003).
Development of Research Skills
The existence of technologically controlled factors in the society has led to the development of opportunities, both in education and in the labour market. Learning institutions have increased their faculties to include information literacy disciplines. Learning institutions use information literacy as a tool to acquaint students with the required research knowledge and skills that are appropriate for the labour market. The inclusion of information literacy disciplines in schools has enabled learners improve their research, evaluation, and analytical skills.
Learners use these skills to compare and analyse information without much involvement in empirical research. The results obtained from information sources present adequate content for comparison and analysis. Learning institutions have an added advantage since the use information technology and literacy facilitates the monitoring and evaluation of the entire educational systems. The information about students’ enrolment, fee structures, academic, and discipline records among others, enables the officer in charge to retrieve and compare students’ information in a mouse-click and make immediate conclusions (Andretta, 2007).
Shifting Roles of Educationalists
As governments and education leaders facilitate the establishment of ICT infrastructures in schools, the role of educationalists has gradually shifted (Johnston & Webber, 2003). Based on the abundance and nature of information that is readily available on online sources, teachers have to offer guidance on the use of the internet resources for academic purposes. However, many students have acquired information literacy skills through individual practice. Nevertheless, the teacher’s role to ensure that the learner has the right literacy skills is of paramount importance.
Johnston and Webber (2003) explain several roles that educationalists assume to foster learners’ information literacy. First, educationalists have to nurture reason and/or promote critical thinking amongst learners. They have to promote desirable information literacy skills to enable learners relate information gathered from online sources to situational context. Learners have to appreciate the value of the interdisciplinary approach to information gathering.
Secondly, educators have to provide clear guidelines to make the right pieces of information from online sources. Internet platforms place large chunks of related information at the learner’s disposal. This state makes it difficult for learners to discriminate the correct information from the vast collection of sources. Factually, the discovery of new information never ceases. Andretta (2007) reveals that scholars, researchers, academic, and article writers around the globe post thousands of information pieces on the internet in every second. Sometimes, misappropriate or misleading information may be availed on the internet.
Therefore, learners should acquire appropriate information literacy skills that enable them distinguish between the infinite ranges of information choices. Thirdly, educators have to encourage learners to become innovative. In many cases, learners play the role of the information receiver. To enhance information literacy, educators should instil the discipline of thought to learners in a bid to illicit information from them (Kumar & Altschuld, 2000). Learners should perceive the acquisition of knowledge in a two-way approach whereby they create and define their own opinions that concern the disciplines of interest.
The role of the educator has become more complex than it was a decade ago. With the emergence of literally virtual sources of information, the critical thinking and analysis of perceptions has become a common goal for teachers around the globe. Harnessing learners’ abilities for education purposes go beyond the obvious learning practices. Therefore, the teacher has the responsibility to encourage the learner to analyse the theory learned in class by using information technology and information literacy skills.
Furthermore, teachers have to keep themselves up-to-date with the emerging technologies to remain relevant to the student. Modernity creates a need for teachers to learn information literacy skills in an effort to obtain, compare, and analyse new information about science and technology. Information literacy skills are necessary for teachers if they have to deliver the right content to students.
Education and ICT Policy Development
Due to the existence of political, social, and economic aspects of the society that revolve around scientific innovation, there is global compulsion to nurture knowledgeable communities (Kumar & Altschuld, 2000). In this sense, most governments have developed educational policies to encourage the incorporation of information technology courses in school curricula as a way of fostering information literacy. Researchers and policymakers relate the role of learning information literacy with social and economic goals of the society (Lili & Lester, 2009).
For instance, many institutions of higher learning in America, Australia, and the United Kingdom have developed centres for information technology. Correspondingly, university colleges in other parts of the world have also embraced the role of information in educational programmes. For sustainable economic growth, the learning of information technology and information literacy has become a great priority in many learning institutions in order to adequate knowledge individuals (Gibson, 2012).
Similarly, with information literacy as a priority need in schools, many governments across the globe have introduced information technology learning in elementary and high school education. This attempt ensures that children grow up with the right techniques of acquiring information from online sources. Familiarity with information literacy skills improves research and analytical skills. These skills are necessary for their future furtherance of education.
Issues Associated with Information Literacy in Education
Despite the reputable advantages that science and technology has on the society, its interactive nature with the society influences certain behavioural aspects of individuals and organisations. To create a favourable learning climate for the acquisition of literacy skills, learning institutions have to establish proper structures and/or recruit suitable personnel to train learners and maintain these educational systems. These issues pertain to the establishment of Information Technology systems, personnel, and the behaviour of learners and other participants in the learning environment.
Expensive IT Infrastructure
Getting hold of information literacy demands institutions to establish reliable IT infrastructure. Perhaps, the initial cost of information technology infrastructure is the biggest challenge encountered by thousands of learning institutions. Purchasing and installation of information technology equipment is a very expensive undertaking for learning institutions (Gibson, 2012). The IT infrastructure requires hardware and software packages that are suited for educational purposes.
The exclusive need to have internet connectivity and antivirus software package makes the maintenance of the systems even more expensive and cumbersome. In addition, the dynamism of technology is moving the global population in a fast pace. Consequentially, many institutions lag far behind modern information systems. These technicalities have hindered many learning institutions from establishing information technology infrastructures. However, governments are on the forefront to support the establishment of IT infrastructure in learning institutions.
Kumar and Altschuld (2000) acknowledge the efforts of the British government to ensure the establishment of IT infrastructure through the contraction of the British Educational Communications Technology Agency (BECTA). The authors reveal that developed areas in the United States and Australia have attained average student-computer ratio of five to one. Researchers have agreed that demographic patterns and school enrolment do not change the ratio significantly. In a separate case study, Johnston and Webber (2003) expose that Chilean schools have an average of three computers for every hundred students.
Expertise and Professional Knowledge
Nevertheless, the establishment of IT infrastructure does not guarantee the achievement of information literate individuals. This situation implies that Information Technology infrastructure does not only entail the hardware and software aspects but also encompasses maintenance personnel and knowledgeable educationalists. The society plays the lead to ensure the availability of learners in the learning institution.
Therefore, it is the expectation of the society that learners get the right knowledge that will enable them to give back to the society in due course. Educators need progressive support to maximise the potential of information literacy on learners. The participation of the teacher in information technology is crucial for learners’ integration of the best skills and conceptualisation of diverse informative concepts. Such programmes enable learners appreciate the use of information technology in improving their research and analytical skills.
The amalgamation of information literacy practices in educational systems requires expertise of the trainers. As mentioned above, the effort of the learner to seek the correct information from the internet is not always adequate. The guidance of the teacher is of profound importance in order to narrow down the content of the search. There is a need for establishing teacher enrichment programmes to acquaint them with the appropriate training knowledge pertaining to information literacy skills.
Johnston and Webber (2003) reveal numerous schools of thought that detail the preeminent techniques to acquaint educationalists with information literacy. The authors reveal an online professional development course that was established in Thailand to train teachers on the use of information technology to nurture students’ information literacy. Martin (2011) suggests that institutions should clearly outline information literacy courses in their curricula to maximise the use of information technology in schools.
In some countries, especially in the developing world, learning institutions fall short of expert individuals to train learners on competent information literacy skills. This occurrence results in the existence of a competence gap in expertise. In a study conducted by Johnston and Webber (2003) to investigate the shortage of professionals in information technology and related disciplines, the authors revealed that anxiety and cowardice prevent educators from using computers and other technology gadgets in learning environments. Therefore, there is an immediate need for school leaders to persuade educators to maximise the use of information technology utilities to facilitate the learning of information literacy skills. Educators should appreciate the value of these utilities to harness the capabilities of learners for future knowledge societies.
On a different perspective, Andretta (2007) reveals that the society is one of the contributors of low levels of expertise in information technology. Information technology dropouts have stereotyped information-related courses as difficult ones to pursue. As a result, individuals fear investing their knowledge in information literacy skills in paranoia of failing to accomplish their career goals in the subject. This situation leads to educational distress as learners succumb to misplaced academic interests.
Since most of these information literacy skills reach learners at an advanced education level, educationalists should work closely with the society to make it comprehend the importance of information for its growth. Additionally, academic leaders should introduce education forums that pertain to information literacy in graduate schools to nurture the interests of learners in the subject area. Johnston and Webber (2003) attest that the harnessing of the interests of young technologists forms a prerequisite for future leaders in the same technology. Therefore, the nurturing of young talents will eventually fill the competency gap of expertise on information literacy skills.
Information Abuse in Education
The needs of acquiring information literacy vary significantly amongst individuals and organisations. While some individuals and organisations have very clear goals for acquiring information, others act on the contrary. This phenomenon leads to the violation of information ethics that govern information literacy. Misappropriation of information has adverse implications on social learning institutions, which include plagiarism, time wastage, and exposure of children to the internet.
The availability of unlimited internet use and incompetent information literacy skills in learning institutions has resulted in information plagiarism. The abundance or variety information that is available on the internet leads to confusion of thoughts as learners attempt to seek the right information. As a result, the chances of copying the work of authors have become the challenge of appraising students’ performance in many learning institutions.
Generally, lack of originality lowers the quality of educational research. This practice amongst higher education learners has led to the establishment of regulatory bodies within the educational system to ensure adherence to copyright laws. Martin (2011) suggests that trainers should persuade learners to practice ‘netiquette’ as part of information literacy skills to avoid plagiarising information obtained from electronic sources.
Plagiarism may have serious consequences on the performance of the learner. Some learners have ended up in severe punishments while others have encountered suspensions or even expulsions from the learning programmes. Moreover, educators should advocate for originality of online-based research through instillation of adequate information literacy skills to enable learners make their own comparison of content and/or derive meaningful conclusions (Andretta, 2007).
In addition, learners who fail to acquire the appropriate IT and literacy skills end up spending much time searching information. Poor information literacy skills lead to wastage of time as learners compare information from electronic sources. Information literacy skills accompany the knowledge of information technology such as basic computer packages, for instance the internet and Office Suite. Although maintenance skills are not very necessary, learners may require them in case of emergencies.
Partially, learners have the mandate to rule their knowledge on information literacy skills. Wastage of time is also evident where a learner’s attention to search the intended information is stolen by other features that seem interesting on the internet. For instance, it is a common habit for individuals to start Facebook applications or other social networking engines while doing academic research. Swayed attention limits the time for research, hence attracting time wastage. To correct this habit, educators have to address the importance of literacy skills to learners. The school’s information technology system should limit the access to certain non-academic websites.
Lastly, information literacy in early education exposes children to unnecessary and non-academic information. The virtue of the internet as a research tool does not always make sense to children, especially teenagers (Gibson, 2012). The exposure to every kind of information on the internet places the child’s interest in a state of anxiety. As a result, children divert their attention to meet their peers on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Twoo among other social sites.
To worsen the situation, they seek funny phonographic videos and related media issues that are psychologically unhealthy for both children and adults. However, it is possible to limit access to such illicit information by ensuring the use of efficient and appropriate information software. The systems administrator should be given the mandate to discriminate unnecessary information from the sight of children. Exclusion of non-academic material from the learning platform will enable the youngsters capture the required skills in information literacy at a tender age.
The Future of Information Literacy in Education
The advancement of technology never ceases and so is the need for new information. The educational sector thrives in a multifaceted information environment. Therefore, there is a need for educators to remain on toes to adjust accordingly to the dynamic information landscape. Gibson (2012) predicts that the future of information literacy will enable teachers and learning institutions realise ultimate educational goals and objectives. There will be better organisation of information and investigation techniques. Students will generate, evaluate, and share multifaceted content through the continued sophistication of information technology.
The future of the educational sector reflects an enriched curriculum that will have information literacy as a sub-course in every educational discipline. According to Andretta (2007), information literacy will enable educators and learners save more time since educational life will become more organised. The information systems will include advanced tech-savvy gadgets such as Smartphones and ‘tablet’ technology. Concisely, researchers and policymakers link the future of information literacy to the totality of learning institutions where science and technology will facilitate the achievement of learner’s and institutions’ goals and objectives.
Science, technology, and the society are mutually interdependent subjects that have many implications on the education aspect of life. Information technology and information literacy are key areas of science and technology that have proved their shrewd importance in creating knowledgeable societies through education. Information literacy is important for innovativeness that is necessary for the labour market. The purpose of information literacy in learning institutions is to prepare individuals for the practical world.
The learnt search techniques, evaluation, and analytical skills culminate into well-informed learners who can initiate problem-solving techniques for social, political, and economic challenges in the society. Information literacy has the potential to change the way educators perform training roles in the learning situation. It is a perfect tool for use in academic and industrial research that learners and the society cannot avoid in this era of science and technology.
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