Big6 IL Solution
The Big6 - An Information Literacy Solution (PCIL)
Amanda L. Trawick May 3, 2008
Information literacy, according to The American Library Associations Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (PCIL), is a set of abilities that include a persons being able to recognize when information is needed, locate it, evaluate it, and then use it effectively. Information literacy is often paired with information technology literacy. A 1999 report from the National Research Council outlines the differences between information literacy and fluency with technology: Information literacy engages in, activities which may be accomplished in part by fluency with information technology, in part by sound investigative methods, but most important, through critical discernment and reasoning. Information literacy initiates, sustains, and extends lifelong learning through abilities which may use technologies but are ultimately independent of them. (ACRL) However, technology skills and information literacy often overlap and support one another.
We live in The Information Age and how well we achieve our goals through information and technology skills will not only have an impact on our individual lives, but it will shape our country. In this age the information literate will prosper and enjoy a higher quality of life because they will be able to access all of the benefits that information and technology have to offer. Those with understanding might now have the ability to address, long-standing social and economic inequities, (PCIL) and create a better way of life for both themselves and their communities. Many organized citizen groups, seek to influence public policy, issues, and community problems. (PCIL) To be successful they will need to locate and access many information sources and know that those sources are truthful and reliable. If they know how to do this, the help will come at no financial cost to their organization.
In the Information Age those without the skills required will be at a loss. They will have access to only second-hand information and second-hand experiences. Unfortunately, the people in our society who need information skills the most, such as minorities and the economically disadvantaged, may be the very ones who never learn them. They need to know what is available so that they can change their situations for the better. People who are willing to give time and effort educating such groups will be ensuring that everyone in their community has the opportunity for growth and advancement. It would also help if public awareness about information literacy problems were increased. The American Library Association requests that a Coalition for Information Literacy be formed to head this effort. (PCIL)
Information and technology skills enable an individual to find out facts for themselves. They do not have to be dependent upon others to know what is happening in their worlds. Learning these skills will be a lifelong practice, but the more an individual learns, the more he or she is empowered. Information literate people will form their own original thoughts, ideas, and opinions and be at the forefront of society. They will also be people of great understanding in the world, having been exposed to the thoughts, ideas, opinions, cultures, and values of a multitude of others. (PCIL)
Those who are involved in business will need to know how to do proper research. If a company is to build upon strong business foundations that have already been laid, battle lawsuits, and avoid costly future disasters, someone with skill in research and information management needs to be present. Voters will need to know about the political parties to make informed decisions. They must know how to learn about cutting-edge developments in a campaign and be able to make use of the facts already available to them. The library is available within the community to meet the needs of these and others, but many times it is overlooked and its resources go untapped. Librarians within the school system have the knowledge and experience needed to teach information technology skills, but they are often viewed as separate from the educational institutions they are a part of. Some say that librarians as a whole will be replaced by technology within our society. It is far more likely that the role itself will change and adapt to the new opportunities and benefits offered by technological advancement. Things would work differently and more efficiently if information literacy and the library were a central focus. (PCIL) According to the American Library Association website what is called for is, a restructuring of the learning process. Textbooks, workbooks, and lectures must yield to a learning process based on the information resources available for learning and problem solving throughout people's lifetimes--to learning experiences that build a lifelong habit of library use. (PCIL)
If all you have is the technology, you are not an information producer, you are just a consumer.
-Jamie McKenzie, editor of the educational technology journal From Now On
The Big6 Background
It is quite possible that some of the ideas for the Big6 came from Blooms Taxonomy. Blooms Taxonomy was created by a group of educational psychologists headed by Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s. First, educational activity was divided into three domains: cognitive, (thinking), affective, (emotions), and psychomotor, (physical). The cognitive domain contains a classification system of the different levels of intellectual behavior, ranging from the low, or simple, thinking, to the high or complex abstract thinking. The six levels of intellectual behavior that Bloom and his coworkers came up with, from lowest to highest, were: Knowledge, understanding/comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. After the group had developed and tested it they found that the majority of students were only using the lowest level of intellectual behavior to accomplish tasks set by their instructors. In other words, they were only memorizing and reproducing what they had been taught. This is not the best way to learn, because often students will memorize what they need to pass a test and afterward forget the information entirely. The Big6 makes no hierarchal distinction between intellectual behaviors, which makes sense, because it is often the case that all of them are useful to varying degrees during each stage of task completion. However, it presents students with a challenge and therefore offers a solution to the one-type-behavior problem that the psychologists encountered.
The Big6 - Overview
The Big6 is an information and technology literacy model and curriculum created by educators Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, who each have a background in information science. It has 6 stages or steps, and there are two sub-stages for each main one. It has become the most popular approach in the world for teaching information and technology skills. The Big6 has been implemented in thousands of schools from K through higher education and is often referred to as an information problem-solving strategy, since it can be applied to a variety of tasks. (Eisenberg) It is sorely needed in today's world where we are often overwhelmed with information. Richard Wurmans book Information Anxiety says that our daily New York Times has more information in it than Christopher Columbus would have seen in his whole lifetime, but do we have the skills to mentally process all of this input? How do I find what I need in a sea of articles, books, and the websites that are added to the internet at a rate of thousands per minute? (Wolinsky, 11-12) How do I know which sources are understandable and reliable and which are not worth my time? Whether it be something as complex as testing a new scientific theory, or something as simple as choosing which movie to rent, I have lots of information available to me and a multitude of choices to make. I may not know where to begin. Also, information by itself is meaningless- but when applied properly and in context, it becomes a powerful tool. (AT & T Knowledge Network Explorer, 2007)
In her technology handbook Mary Anne Fitzgerald says that we tend to focus on technology by itself as if it will solve the information problem for us. It wont. Technology is simply a tool. What we need most are people that will be intelligent and critical users of technology. (Fitzgerald, pg. 101)Applying the Big6 can help everyone become better technology users. We are already using the Big6 steps in a subconscious way when we think. We use them to make decisions. When we surf links on the net we are using skills that have their basis in library research and are a part of the Big6. (Story-Huffman) We may not use all of the steps, and some of the steps may be out of order. Why should we practice all of the Big6 steps - in order - all of the time? It will create pathways in our brain, that's why. These pathways, (when used out of habit), will enable us to make quick decisions and take action without wasting precious time. This is a process called mind mapping . It brings our subconscious thought processes to the surface where we can better understand what's going on. Also, when many people use the Big6 its steps become a common vocabulary. It helps the people with information solving problems relate to one another. When one person says, I'm having trouble with Location and Access, someone else will know exactly what they need and be able to help. (Wolinsky) Obviously there are six steps to the Big6 model, but in a way the first thing to be considered in an institution of learning is evaluation. Teachers must come up with a plan for documenting student participation and assessing skills so that the Big6 can be validated on paper and student progress can be seen by others.
The Big6 - 6 Steps (Wolinsky) (Barnes)
Task Definition is the first step. Tasks are created by one person, although technology can help groups of people communicate and brainstorm together to create a task. Task Definition involves defining the information problem, usually by asking questions about it. Asking good questions is important. When good questions are asked learning becomes an active, rather than passive, exercise. As a result, the information is retained instead of forgotten. In her article For the Best Answers Ask Tough Questions Joyce Kasman Valenza discusses what a difference it makes in the school system when teachers ask better questions. Better questions teach both information literacy skills and practical life skills such as weighing options, representing various points of view, proposing solutions to a problem, and understanding cause and effect. For instance, instead of a teacher telling a student to write a paper on pollution, a teacher might ask the student how pesticide pollution is being handled in their area, should people use pesticides, how he or she might be able to help the problem, and which type of environmentally safe alternatives, if there are any, would be the best choice. Intimidated newcomers to this kind of thinking will be encouraged to know that there is often more than one answer to such questions. (Valenza) Jamie McKenzies book Beyond Technology: Questioning, Research, and the Information Literate School says that many standardized tests are beginning to require more original thought and inferential reasoning. He also states that,Questions may be the most powerful technology we have ever created. (McKenzie)
Another aspect of Task Definition is identifying information that is needed to bring the task to completion. For instance, a student may need to evaluate how many sources will be needed in order to complete the task for the teacher, what kinds of sources will be needed, and how much information he will need in order to complete the task. It is good for him to ask these questions before he starts, so that he wont find himself halfway through the assignment with too little, or too much, information.
Information Seeking Strategies is the second step. It involves determining all possible sources and then prioritizing them, or selecting the best of them. A big part of this step is brainstorming. Concept mapping software such as Inspiration may be used to view brainstorming ideas in an organized way. After several options and ideas have been produced, then it is time to narrow them down to only the best. Usually these are various sources of information, such as library books, magazines, CD ROMS, internet discussion groups, web sites, periodicals, newspapers, etc., sorted by which ones are most likely to be useful to ones less likely to be. Computer graphic triangles may be used to illustrate the broad-to-narrow or general-to-specific aspects of the topic. Another option is seeking out physical things in the environment that can be observed and studied directly. For example, physicians, archaeologists, and astronomers frequently depend upon physical examination to detect the presence of particular phenomena. In addition, mathematicians, chemists, and physicists often utilize technologies such as statistical software or simulators to create artificial conditions in which to observe and analyze the interaction of phenomena. (ACRL) According to the ACRL website learners, need to have repeated opportunities for seeking, evaluating, and managing information gathered from multiple sources and discipline-specific research methods.
Location and Access is the third step. Locating sources, (intellectually and physically), involves finding out where the information can be accessed. Taking a trip to the local library, browsing the shelves, finding a library's online catalog, or making use of search engines, meta search tools, and subject trees are ways to locate information. Finding information within the sources will require you to perform a professional search. Understanding keywords and guide words is crucial at this point if search engines and databases are to understand what you are looking for and produce the right websites and written information for you. Putting Boolean logic into practice will produce the best results. There are some websites called Pathfinders that will help locate useful information. These are usually hosted by schools and libraries for their students and patrons.
Use of Information is the fourth step. Part of using information is engaging it with the senses; touch, taste, look, read, listen, etc. If a student has located and accessed the book he was looking for, he will now read it. The classical music fan who wanted to know more about Mozart is now listening to a biography or composition in audio form. The archaeologist has located and accessed the dig site, and is now handling an artifact. Next is extracting relevant information. Concept mapping software and graphic organizers are useful during this stage to keep track of notes. There are several ways that notes can be made and graphic organizers can be used to: help sort out thoughts, memorize important facts, record responses and observations, record comparisons and contrasts, recognize information patterns, and see how each note relates to the others. Not all notes have to be written. Images have been used to express thoughts in note-making ever since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, whose sketchbooks were full of both written words and drawings.(Burke) It is necessary that you familiarize yourself with copyright laws and the risk of plagiarism. Taking citations and beginning a bibliography now is a good idea. The researcher must also know how to find out if the information being noted is valid. There are five things to look for in order to determine a websites worth: accuracy, authority, objectivity, and coverage. (Wolinsky, pg. 47) All information should be current.
Synthesis is the fifth step. First, all of the notes taken must be read through as you organize information from multiple sources. This is the stage where you will determine what material is useful and what is not. The information that remains will be part of a speech, report, or presentation of some kind. You will present the information to an audience in a creative way. The results of your research can be translated into a new and appealing format that is pleasing to the senses. You may use charts, graphs, pictures, sound, 3D objects, and animation. Most people will be giving a speech before a group along with a multimedia presentation. Of course, if you are the person who just ran at a dash through the Big6 steps to figure out which movie to rent, you are now ready to bring the movie home and watch it with your friends while eating a bag of popcorn.
Synthesis can be a more elaborate step when applied to an art project or creative endeavor. Mike Frerichs, a school media specialist, says that, The concept of design is built into the Big6 research process, and that it is, especially effective to teach design as part of the Big6 number five synthesis step. (Frerichs)
Evaluation is the sixth and final step. You have presented your findings to someone else, now it is time to judge them for yourself. Judging the effectiveness of the product will require you to think about how well your presentation was received. Next, you judge the efficiency of the process by reviewing what you accomplished in each of the steps. In what ways might you improve next time? What tools have you found or practices have you learned that will aid you in future research? This is effectively where the Big6 starts over. The Big6 steps are most useful when they are practiced repeatedly and have become a habit. The repetition eliminates confusion and adds skills learned so that things are always done better the next time. This is why media specialists in the school system should not make the Big6 a library-focused strategy alone, but should convince teachers of its continued usefulness in the classroom. The Big6 model can be applied to all sorts of curriculum and everyday tasks.
Since the learning process never ceases, students need to acquire the skills they will need in order to learn on their own. -unknown
The Big6 - K-2, 3-6, and 7-12
A special version of the Big6 has been made for K-2 students. It is called the Super3 and has only 3 steps: Plan, do, and review. Searchers can view the website and follow links to come up with interesting ways of presenting the Super3 to children. A simplified version of the Big6 for grades 3-6 and grades 7-12 can also be perused on this site. It is important that these skills be taught early so that children can face their struggles in a practical way. Information and technology literacy can help children work through a school assignment or work through their emotions. Jean Marie Casey, author of Creating the Early Literacy Classroom: Activities for Using Technology to Empower Elementary Students, noted that when children were taught typing they gradually gained confidence. They used technology to create stories, sometimes adding visuals and sound to the finished product, and when they were finished the stories were shared with classmates and family members. Sometimes working on the writing assignments helped them confront issues they were facing at home that their parents had not known about. The end result was an empowered child and a happier family. (Casey, pg. 10)
Strategies for using information like the Big6 can be helpful to children as they work through the problems they encounter in life. Virginia Rankin, teacher and author of The Thoughtful Researcher: Teaching the Research Process to Middle School Students had been teaching herself problem solving techniques for the classroom but found that these same techniques were useful when her daughter had a life crisis. She realized that her daughter was about to choose a bad solution to the problem she was having. She encouraged her to find other options and evaluate her choices before acting on that solution. (Rankin, pg. 139)
Rebecca J. Hickey is a library media specialist at Conte West Hills Magnet School, and her department has its own curriculum dedicated to attaining content knowledge. She has noticed that the middle school students are often unsure of themselves and seem to be unable to trust what they know to be true. Therefore, when they read information they are hesitant to draw conclusions. When they are given a question about the text the answer must be very obvious and easy to spot if they are going to use it. One particular student was asked what the natives of a certain area ate. The text had mentioned what types of plants were grown and farmed in the area, but since the plant was never specifically mentioned as a meal, the student assumed that the answer was not there. Hickey decided that many students were not learning the types of thinking skills that would allow them to be self-confident and draw conclusions. With better thinking skills the students could look beyond the face value of the text and understand the meaning being conveyed. The Big6 model always challenges those who use it to think differently than they normally would by providing a framework and direction for thought. She set out to create a poetry workshop based on the Big6 because poetry often has meaning that is not revealed by the text alone. She hopes that the workshop will encourage students in higher and intuitive thinking. (Hickey)
The Big6 - Turbo Tools
Big6 Turbo Tools is user-friendly organizing software that was created to help the Big6 become a part of classroom curriculum with more ease. It comes with a variety of helpful tools. TurboLinks is a website linking tool that students and teachers can use to share information. A teacher may want to make a list of websites for the children to view in preparation for their next class project. Classmates can share favorite URLs by saving them and then importing or exporting them to friends. Short notes can be made on items of interest. TurboCite automatically creates citations for students in a professional format and makes annotated bibliographies easier. Students may use TurboWrite as their word processor, or if they are writing a report there is TurboReport to help them do it. TurboReport has a customizable reporting template for convenience. An electronic dictionary is provided. Students can file away project information in their lockers, and they have easy access to a Big6 reminder page illustrating the 6 steps. Teachers and librarians can create and post helpful pages of information on the bulletin board feature with a push pin or access sources and software applications from it. The Big6 planner and the calendar feature help students keep up with assignments and TurboRater generates evaluation forms and tests so that everyone can rate how they are doing in class. All finished tasks can be sent to the teacher via computer. (Big6 TurboTools)
The Big6 - Higher Education
According to the ACRL website The Boyer Commission Report, Reinventing Undergraduate Education, recommends strategies that require the student to engage actively in the framing of a significant question or set of questions, the research or creative exploration to find answers, and the communications skills to convey the results..." (ACRL) If information literacy and library use were central in higher education, students would be more interactive, learning would be more self-initiated, and the information process would be respected as something that requires a good deal of effort. Students would recognize valuable resources. Teachers would be guides instead of lecturers, and would arouse curiosity, debate, and discussion. They would interact with media resource people, librarians, and instructional designers in creating challenging tasks for the students. Better and more interesting questions would be asked. Evaluation and assessment would become another learning experience. Information literacy would become a vital part of learning. Information and technology skills would become an active, realistic means of accomplishing tasks and goals set by the institution and eventually, by the world. (PCIL)
According to Ru-Story Huffman the Big6 can be practiced in higher education by using a variety of methods. She says that one way is by universities creating an information skills course for each specific discipline using the Big6 as a framework. In this model students would take the course and learn to apply the Big6 steps to their area of interest. An art major may use information seeking strategies such as brainstorming to determine how he or she will proceed with a project. Someone studying to become a nurse may use the evaluation step to determine how a sickness might have been cured sooner. Instructors and librarians would work together as a team to help guide students through the steps and give instruction and encouragement where it was needed. The curriculum goals would be explained by the instructor or librarian and the project development and its outcome would be held to the standards of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). This type of collaborative effort would be the best environment for scholarly learning to take place. Huffman suggests a curriculum map to clarify goals and chart the course of the class. The map will be crucial in determining how the project is proceeding and will be useful for evaluation after its completion. It will also provide visual documentation of progress made in the class. (Story-Huffman) However, implementing this plan in distance education might be difficult. The instructor would need to, develop a comparable range of experiences in learning about information resources as are offered on traditional campuses. Information literacy competencies for distance learning students should be comparable to those for on campus students. (ACRL)
The Big6 - In Action
The teachers and children of Indian Creek Middle School in Trafalgar, India, began the Big6 Mars Millennium Project in order to create a more dynamic and exciting place in which to learn media skills. Traditional library skills, the Big6, and the Mars Millennium Project: A National Arts, Sciences, and Technology Education Initiative were combined for the project. Six teams were selected to tackle different Mars subjects. The students were shown the Big6 steps and given a tour of the library media center. They explored the room and took note of where everything was located so that they could draw a map for later reference. They used their maps to locate and access specific sources. The media specialist observed all of this and appointed each of the six groups a different task, based upon observations of the groups weakness and strengths. The Big6 was reviewed again before they began their work.
The projects varied in levels of difficulty, with some groups choosing how to market new crayon colors with space titles, and some designing living arrangements on the planet Mars. A lot of information about the planetary conditions had to be brought into consideration when choosing where to plant a building. It was noted that the library was lively, busy, and filled with the noise of students who were finding out what they needed to know, and doing it mainly on their own. The synthesis step brought various elements of the project together with visual aids to create each groups product. Finally, there was the video presentation and evaluation in which the media specialist was the judge.
The grade each child received depended upon the quality of the final product and how the other members of their group evaluated his or her contribution. They were also given the opportunity to rate their own performance. A Big6 evaluation was conducted by each student, and class discussion helped them see what things could have been done differently or in a better way. They stated that the Big6 improved their memorization skills and that the synthesis step in particular had motivated them to do a good job. In evaluation students were able to see and appreciate the many different activities that had been involved in reaching the goal, and some said that next time they would like to try a different role in their group. (Somers)
Ru Story-Huffman, a reference librarian at Georgia Southwestern State University and Government Information Coordinator, said in a recent interview,Ive been in the library field for over 30 years and during that time information literacy has been a subject of much discussion. When I came across the Big6 website years ago I decided to send them some of my work. Ive been writing for them since 2002. She says that a nonlinear form of the Big6 steps is being widely used and is gradually gaining favor in the academic world. She herself doesn't just write about the Big6. She puts the model to use. A few years ago when I was on an accreditation team I used the Big6 to develop the information literacy portion of the document. The Big6 is very applicable to work research.
Students at the college level have much to learn from the Big6. They often, in task definition, do not know what the instructor expects of them. They do not know the tasks boundaries or how and where to begin their search. During the information seeking strategies step they often turn to the internet as their only source, although it may be limited in the amount of valuable information it can provide. If a teacher has said there are to be no internet sources they might assume that this includes online databases. When it is time for location and access students don't know what is available to them, and when they find out, they don't know how to use simple research strategies to pinpoint the topic. These students will need a quick lesson in key words, library classification systems, Boolean logic, and related terms. Looking for significant words in their search and in their sources may be of some assistance in locating more information on their topic. These are all problems that Ru Story-Huffman has helped students work through. She uses the Big6, research formulas, and library research skills to help students improve. (Story-Huffman)
Kitty Forbus has been a school library media specialist for 11 years. For one year she worked with K-12 grades and for the past ten has been a K-4th grade librarian. A few years ago she was exploring the possibility of National Board Certification and realized that one of the assessment questions focused on the use of an information literacy process. The process of choice at the time was the Big6. She practiced the Big6 for the first time then and has been putting it to good use ever since. In the summer of 2007 she attended a seminar hosted by Big6 creators Berkowitz and Eisenburg. She called the seminar, Very enjoyable and informative. She and another media specialist friend presented a workshop upon their return.
She spoke of what a difference the Big6 had made with her patrons.
I have used it successfully with students who are working on class projects and other assignments. I use the Super3 with lower grades and the Big6 with my fourth graders. It helps students think clearly and move strategically through the information literacy process. Having a step-by-step guide really helps to keep the students focused and on task. They begin to think and work methodically. Defining the project from the very beginning also helps them realize what they are required to do and what materials are needed in order to do that. So often students come to me in the media center and say something like,I have to do a project on Alabama History. That's all they are able to tell me. They haven't narrowed down a topic. They are unsure of what their finished product should look like. They don't know many or what types of sources to use. You get the idea. The Big6 really helps to eliminate those uncertainties. (Forbus)
She is currently trying to implement use of the Big6 in every grade at her school.
I think the Big6 is most effective in a school setting when it is used school-wide. The uniformity and common language of it carry over from grade to grade and this allows a continuity of learning. Everyone is speaking the same language and playing on the same team. It is a slow process right now since our students are still learning how to use it. However, students who are learning and using it now will become more adept with it each year. Eventually, the only new students I will be teaching it to are the incoming kindergarten students. I hope by the time students are in the fourth grade they will be old pros at using the Big6. (Forbus)
Media specialist Mike Frerichs decided to base his grant proposal in 2005 on a digital design curriculum called Digital Design: Foundations of Web Design. For his efforts he received an Adobe-Macromedia software package of intimidating tools such as Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Freehand, and Flash. Frerichs, the teachers, and a technology assistant met and discussed the new multimedia possibilities. It was decided that the fourth grade class would try out the new difficult-to-learn software and use it for their New York research project. They would be creating an interactive web page.
A timeline was developed during which the students would practice the Big6 as they prepared for their presentations, and several weeks would be spent on research alone. Once the students began working with the multimedia programs they tried to learn by example, and they attempted to copy what their teacher did. There were only a few trailblazers in the class who tried things independently and succeeded. The skill level needed to pull off this project put teachers on the same level as their students, and everyone was learning new things. Whenever a new discovery was made, it was shared with the rest of the class.
During this time the synthesis step of the Big6 was taken to an entirely new level. The multimedia task had to be broken down into parts and the goal approached in problem-solving increments in order for it to be completed. FlashMX and downloaded open source material provided the basics needed to create a New York facts jeopardy game, (they wanted to have learning activities on the page). This was the ideal opportunity for Frerichs to review the copyright and plagiarism rules with the students and show them the appropriate way to practice use of information. Once the project was finally completed, the class practiced evaluation and retraced the steps of the Big6 to find out how they might improve and do better next time. This project could not have succeeded without some sort of framework and system of learning supporting it. The class created a special Big6 web page to show how they had accomplished their task. (Frerichs)
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Eisenberg, Michael, and Robert Berkowitz, Laura Robinson. The Big6 Collection: The Best of the Big6 Newsletter. Worthington, Oh: Linworth Publishing, 2000.
Summary & Evaluation The greatest lesson learned was to seek out sources as early as possible. It is better to have too much information than too little. Finding information about The Big6 was not easy, even when NetLibrary and several databases were thoroughly searched. Books on the topic were available only through local universities, and the special interlibrary loan required a postage payment and weeks of waiting. Writing a coherent and easily understood paper about what is essentially a mental thought process proved to be a challenge, but I found it fascinating that one could not write a paper about the Big6 without putting it into practice.