06 December 2013

Teaching Information Literacy: An Evaluation

An evaluation of Common Sense Media Inc. (2013). Scope and Sequence, Grades 6-8. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/scope-and-sequence#grades-6-8

Description of the information literacy unit plan

The ‘Information Literacy’ unit plan on the Common Sense Media website, is part of a free K-12 curriculum for teaching digital citizenship. Teachers can choose lessons and plans for different grade levels from three units across a variety of topics including ‘Cyberbullying’ and ‘Internet Safety’. The ‘Information Literacy’ unit plan for learners in Grades 6-8 comprises six lessons – two lessons from each of the three units - and intends to allow learners to develop the ability to “identify, find, evaluate, and use information effectively”. The unit covers effective search strategies, techniques to evaluate quality, credibility, and validity, and how to cite and provide proper credit for sources used (K-12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum, 2012, p.2).

Operating in a newly established 1:1 school means an abundance of learners new to the use of technology for learning purposes. They have only experienced technology in terms of leisure and social pursuits, and the change from using technology and the Internet as a social tool to one for educational purposes is a switch that is causing some teething problems. Learners do not know how to search efficiently; they never evaluate their sources, and rarely, if ever, give proper credit. A great deal of ‘cut and past’ happens without any real understanding of why this is unacceptable. Being able to cover all these issues takes time and needs to be instilled consistently over a sustained period. Schools have a responsibility to address information literacy skills in every subject area, particularly in a 1:1 environment. However, a large onus is placed upon English and humanities departments, as subjects whose curriculum and content requires searching and citing skills the most.

English Language Arts does, as a discipline, offer many opportunities to integrate and teach information literacy skills explicitly, particularly if we consider them as simply a part of what it means to be literate in the twenty-first century. Whilst I do not think I would deliver these lessons as the unit outlined here, I do think the Common Sense Media website is a useful resource that I will dip in and out of. The scope and sequence provides different pathways that can be taught discretely, but individual lessons could easily be embedded into my own schemes when appropriate and relevant. This will ensure that information literacy is covered and returned to throughout the year, rather than taught all at once and ‘forgotten’.

GEM's evaluation of unit plan

The six lessons in this Information Literacy Unit, with objectives, are:

· Strategic Searching: to “understand the importance of using a variety of search strategies; master new strategies for effective and efficient online searches; learn to create and execute a five-step plan for conducting an online search” (2012, p. 1).

· A Creator’s Rights: to “understand that copyright is a legal system”; compare different ways to license copyrighted work, and to create and copyright an original song” (2012, p. 1).

· A Creator’s Responsibilities: to “consider ethical questions” about creative rights and responsibilities; “understand that piracy and plagiarism are irresponsible and disrespectful” with “ethical and legal implications”, and to think of solutions to creators’ potential dilemmas (2012, p. 1).

· Gender Stereotypes Online: to “define gender stereotypes and their impact” on online and offline identities; “identify gender stereotypes in a virtual world for kids”, and to “analyze opportunities and limitation for gender expression in virtual worlds” (2012, p. 1).

· Identifying High Quality Sites: to “understand how the ease of publishing on the Internet might affect how much they can trust content”; learn and apply criteria to help evaluate a website, and “determine how trustworthy and useful it is” (2012, p. 1).

· Rework, Reuse, Remix: to “identify the key points required for a creative work to fall under fair use”; judge the fair use of some case studies, and “understand the value of fair use by reworking and remixing copyrighted material in a collage or video” (2012, p. 1).

Accuracy 5/5: Accurate and current

· The Common Sense Media site is current and relevant. All lesson plans in this unit were written no earlier than 2012. Content includes topics such as Hurricane Sandy, which occurred just over a year ago (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012).

· The Common Sense Media site is constantly being updated. At the end of October 2013, interactive unit assessments were introduced, meaning there are now three forms of assessment available for educators (Stephens, 2013).

· In its endeavour to educate K-12 learners to be digital citizens, Common Sense Media offers training and professional development for educators. I recently was awarded ‘Digital Citizenship Certified’ status by teaching to ensure that learners know “how to make safe, responsible, and respectful choices to harness the learning potential of digital media in a 24/7 connected world” (personal correspondence, 2013). This certification required completing training modules as well as delivering lessons and providing evidence of communication with the school community. This commitment to educators and K12 learners makes me believe the Common Sense Media site and organisation, is reliable and valid.

· No specific authors are listed for the lesson plans.

· An extensive list of advisors - who can be searched and found to authenticate - offers a variety of backgrounds and occupations, and therefore a wealth of authentic and varied knowledge and experience. The list includes Aileen Adams, Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, Robert J. Fisher, the Director of GAP Inc., and Howard Gardner, Ph.D., Professor at the School of Education at Harvard University (Who We Are, 2013).

· Common Sense Media describe themselves as:

a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, [who] provide trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume (About Us: Our Mission, 2013)

and there are lists of, and links to, educators who are associated with the organisation, which lends validity and authority (Who We Are, 2013).

· Each lesson lists up-to-date Common Core Standards appropriate for each separate grade level.

· Each lesson lists relevant and current NETS*S (ISTE, 2012).

Appropriateness 3/5: Mixed levels of appropriateness

· The unit plan is entirely appropriate for first language learners familiar with American culture.

· All lessons are appropriate for Grades 6-8, but they would need adapting for leaners of English as an Additional Language (EAL) in an international environment.

· The unit plan is very American-centric (it is written by Americans) but could easily be adapted.

· Each lesson lists key vocabulary with definitions that are mostly relevant to grade levels, but may need modifying for some learners, such as struggling readers or EAL learners.

· Each lesson integrates the vocabulary explicitly so the key terms become embedded as part of the learners’ understanding of the topic. Additional work would be needed however, before and following the lessons for EAL learners, to ensure assimilation and understanding.

· The lessons blend together a mixture of different activities and groupings, such as whole-class discussions (Lesson: A Creator's Responsibilities (6-8), 2012) and read-alouds ( Lesson: Strategic Searching (6-8), 2012), as well as group work, (Lesson: A Creator's Rights (6-8), 2012) paired work (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012), and individual work (Lesson: Gender Stereotypes Online, 2012). A lot of activities are very discussion-based, which is great for allowing learners a voice and the opportunity to share experiences, as well as ensure the learning becomes relevant and meaningful. However EAL learners will find this heavily language-based learning difficult to follow, and modification would need to happen to ensure their engagement and understanding.

· Each lesson lists up-to-date Common Core Standards appropriate for each separate grade level; this requires adapting for non-American curricula.

· NET*S (ISTE, 2012) standards are used, which are appropriate, as they seem to be being adopted as globally recognised standards for technology usage. Schools who have their own IT standards, could easily map them on to the NET*S ones listed.

Clarity 4/5: Most objectives present

· Each lesson has a clear ‘Essential Question’, e.g. “When can you trust what you find on the Internet?” (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012), and, “What rights do you have as a creator?” (Lesson: Rework, Reuse, Remix, 2012).

· Each lesson has clear learning objectives of three bullet points, which directly link to and address the ‘Essential Question’. For example:

Essential Question: “When can you trust what you find on the Internet?”

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to …

· understand how the ease of publishing on the Internet might affect how much they can trust the content of some sites.

· learn criteria that will help them evaluate websites.

· apply the criteria to a site to determine how trustworthy and useful it is (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012)


Essential Question: “What rights do you have as a creator?”

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to …

· identify the key points required for a creative work to fall under fair use.

· judge whether or not the two case studies can be called fair use.

· understand the value of fair use by reworking and remixing copyrighted material in a collage or video (Lesson: Rework, Reuse, Remix, 2012).

· Methods are clearly presented and easy to follow, though they are language-dense, so would need to be read and digested in plenty of time prior to delivery.

· The activities mostly match up to the objectives of the lesson in a clear and direct way. For example, in the ‘Identifying High Quality Site’ lesson, the first learning objective is to “understand how the ease of publishing on the Internet might affect how much learners can trust the content of some sites” (2012). The ‘warm-up’ activity requires learners to look at some images from the media coverage of Hurricane Sandy, include a ‘fake’ image that went viral at that time. This was not a deliberate act, but demonstrates how the fact that anyone and everyone can publish, necessitates a real need for vigilance when it comes to validating and trusting sources. The second activity backs this up with a discussion reiterating that people who write and publish are not always experts. I feel this activity is somewhat superfluous, as the ‘warm-up’ activity is comprehensive enough to address the objective thoroughly. The next activity, ‘Test Before You Trust’, provides a list of 30 questions that act as “criteria that will help them evaluate websites”, directly addressing the second learning objective. In this part of the lesson, learners have to also “apply the criteria to a site to determine how trustworthy and useful it is”, thereby addressing the third learning objective.

· In the ‘Rework, Reuse, Remix’ lesson, the ‘warm-up’ activity introduces the topic and some key vocabulary, rather than addresses learning objectives directly. I think that asking learners what they could do with these works if they “wanted to use them in the public domain” is rather pointless. I think the learning objectives need to be addressed more quickly and directly, rather than an activity that seems to reinforce their view that they can use anything they want. The activity, ‘Learn About Public Domain and Fair Use’, does however provide an outline, on a hand-out, of the ‘Four Points of Fair Use’. It requires learners to discuss more keywords, and this is sufficient to address this point. The ‘warm up’ could be replaced by this, as whilst important discussion does take place and terminology becomes embedded, I am not sure any objectives have been directly addressed up to this point in the lesson. It is only when learners get to the second main teaching activity, ‘Judge the Fair Use of Case Studies’, that the first and second learning objectives to “identify the key points required for a creative work to fall under fair use”, and “judge whether or not the two case studies can be called fair use”, are addressed. Learners have to view one or two different case studies, and then apply their understanding of fair use to them using the ‘Four Points of Fair Use’ hand-out. The final activity requires learners to make a “creative work using copyrighted materials that can be called fair use” (p.5). Applying learning in the creation of a product in this way is the best way to show understanding of “the value of fair use by reworking and remixing copyrighted material in a collage or video” (Lesson: Rework, Reuse, Remix, 2012).

· The lesson assessments address the ‘Essential Question’ and the “Learning Objectives”. In the ‘Identifying High Quality Sites’ lesson, the assessment quiz asks learners to identify, from a list of three possible answers, “a warning sign that a website might NOT have trustworthy information”. This assesses whether they have understood that “the ease of publishing on the Internet might affect how much they can trust the content of some sites”, as the correct answer is that, “it is not clear who the author is” (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012). The third question provides an example website image, and asks leaners to, “circle at least three things on the site that DO NOT seem trustworthy”. This assesses the second and third objectives, by asking them to apply the evaluation criteria they learned in the lesson. I believe that the majority of learners would be able to answer the ‘Essential Questions’, “When can you trust what you find on the Internet?” following this lesson. In the ‘Rework, Reuse, Remix’ lesson, the assessment quiz asks learners to identify, from a list of three options, which is NOT a “fair use” situation. The answer identifies a situation where a copyrighted song is remixed and sold for a fee, showing whether learners are in fact able to “identify the key points required for a creative work to fall under fair use” and also “judge whether or not the [examples] can be called fair use”. The objectives are less ‘general’ in this lesson, but rather more specific to the particular lesson activities; therefore the creation part of the lesson is very important if learners are to assimilate an understating of “the value of fair use by reworking and remixing copyrighted material”. Without this creation part of the lesson, learners may struggle to answer the ‘Essential Question’, “What rights do you have as a creator?” (Lesson: Rework, Reuse, Remix, 2012).

Completeness 4/5: Satisfactory concept development

· Each lesson stands alone and is ready to teach to native English speakers familiar with American culture. All materials are included in the lesson plan, including worksheets and teacher’s answer sheets.

· The Common Sense Media website houses the relevant videos that accompany the lessons.

· Each lesson includes a three-question assessment, usually of multiple choice, cloze, true or false questions, or location of information on a graphic or illustration. The questions assess the content of the lesson. For example, “True or false: Only experts can post things on the Internet, so everything you read online has been put there by people who know what they are talking about” (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012). An answer sheet is also included for teachers.

· There are some superflous and language-dense activities that duplicate material, as mentioned above. However, the comprehnsiveness and completeness of the lesson plans, means that educators have a strong foundation from which they can easily modify and adapt to suit the needs of their particular learners.

Motivation 4/5: Applications for the most part are engaging and challenging

· Active engagement can take place for the majority of learners. If the recommended modifications for EAL learners and cultural bias are made, all learners could be motivated by the content and activities of the lessons.

· Learners are engaged with the digital realm socially. Asking them to go on the Internet to search, as in the ‘Strategic Searching’ lesson, and create a video, as in the ‘Rework, Reuse, Remix’ lesson, is a great way to create authenitc experiences based on knoweldge they bring to the table, combined with that which they learn in the lesson.

· As mentioned previously, the lessons can tend to be too ‘discussion’ based and language heavy, which learners today may find hard to engage with. Ensuring these sessions are kept to a minimum, or delivering them in a different way would help. For example, the discussion parts, where a lot of content and vocabulary needs to be covered, could be delivered in a ‘flipped classroom’ style, where a video is created to view for homework, and then follow-up activities, to reinforce the content, happen in the classroom, with teacher support (Bergmann & Sams, 2012).

· I also think that providing ‘choice and voice’ (Davis & Lindsay, 2012) could motivate further. This means providing learners with a say in HOW they show their learning. Some of this is apparent, for example in the ‘Rework, Reuse, Remix’ lesson, learners can create a low-tech collage OR a high-tech video. Allowing learners a voice and a choice in how to present their learning helps build a sense of reponsibilty and active engagment, which will in turn motivate them to do well.

· Each lesson includes an option of a send home ‘Family Tip Sheet’ in the ‘Family Resources section, e.g. “Boys, Girls and Media Messages Family Tip Sheet (Middle & High School)” (Lesson: Gender Stereotypes Online, 2012). This helps engage learners as the learning goes beyond the classroom and becomes a community issue, where the school and the family work together.

Organization 4/5: Sequence is fairly clear and smooth-flowing

· Each lesson plan is clear, logical and easy to follow.

· Each lesson plan displays the Common Sense Education symbols for the particular topics it covers at the top of the page. The six lessons outlined in this evaluation are the scope and sequence for a unit on ‘Information Literacy’. However, content covered within each individual lesson does cover more than one topic. For example, Lesson 2: A Creator’s Rights, and Lesson 3: A Creator’s Responsibilities, can be taught in the ‘Information Literacy’ unit and the ‘Copyright’ unit, whilst Lesson 4: Gender Stereotypes Online, can also be taught in the ‘Self-Image and Identity’ unit.

· Each lesson is laid out in the same way meaning it is easy to scan for relevant information or deliver or adapt as needed, particularly once educators are familiar with the layout.

· Each lesson starts with a clear ‘Essential Question’, which guides inquiry of the content.

· The cover page includes the ‘Essential Question’, ‘Lesson Overview’, ‘Learning Objectives’, ‘Materials and Preparation’, ‘Family Resources’, ‘Estimated Time’ (to deliver), ‘Standards Alignment’ (by grade level, in this case, grades 6-8), and ‘Key Vocabulary’.

· Lessons are clearly divided into sections marked by green labels.

· Lessons always contain an ‘Introduction’ with a warm-up activity of around 5-10 minutes. Generally, the warm-up comprises looking at photos or websites, or an activity such as a discussion, such asking learners when they “last copied, downloaded, or shared some type of creative work” (Lesson: A Creator's Responsibilities (6-8), 2012, p.2).

· The lessons are divided into sections, and each ranges between two to three main actitivites per lesson. Activities build on the previous one and relate to the ‘Essential Question’. For example, from a discussion about downloading, as mentioned in the above bullet point, the lesson leads on to “teach 1”, which comprises showing a video of a child, Henry, who makes “mash-ups” from songs. There is a photcopiable discussion guide and a teacher’s version with possible answers. “Teach 2” asks learners to work in groups to reflect and discuss the points raised by reading along with some example case studies, which they then present to the whole group (Lesson: A Creator's Responsibilities (6-8), 2012, pp 2-3).

· Lessons always end with a ‘Closing’ activity of 5-10 minutes. These are called ‘wrap-ups’ and act as a formative assessment of the lesson objectives. For example, discussion questions such as, “What are some of the ways to use and rework copyrighted materials ethically and legally?” (Lesson: A Creator's Responsibilities (6-8), 2012), and “What roles do media, such as virtual worlds, play in shaping gender stereotypes?” (Lesson: Gender Stereotypes Online, 2012), act to assess the learners’ understanding of the lesson objectives (see ‘Clarity’, above).

· Each lesson includes a three-question assessment, usually of multiple choice, cloze, true or false questions, or the location of information on a graphic. The questions assess the content of the lesson. For example, “True or false: Only experts can post things on the Internet, so everything you read online has been put there by people who know what they are talking about (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012). An answer sheet is also included for teachers.

· Assessments generally include a key vocabulary term or examples from the content. They often require learners to think critically and put their learning into practise. For example:

Cindy heard a new song on the radio. She wants to seach for it online, but she can only remember one line of the song. Which of the following strategies would Cindy use to search for this song?

a) Include the date she heard the song on the radio

b) Add synonyms to a few of the wrods she remembers

c) Use quotation marks around the line she remembers

(Lesson: Strategic Searching (6-8), 2012)

· Questions for discussion are clearly presented in italics in green boxes.

· Instructional words are always in bold and capitalized, i.e. ASK, INSTRUCT, DEFINE, DISCUSS, EMPAHSIZE, SHOW.

· All resources are clearly labelled and included. Links work, and videos are embedded into the corresponding page on the Common Sense Media site.

· The majority of lessons are structures in a way that activities flow from one to the next in a logical and clear manner (see ‘Clarity, above).

· Everything is ready to use and requires little or no preparation on behalf of the teacher, other than reading and familiarising themselves with the plan beforehand.

· Materials that need to be prepared for each ‘teach’ section beforehand, are clearly indicated on the cover sheet of the lesson plan, e.g.

Magazines, scissors, construction paper, and glue for the low-tech magazine collage, or student Internet access and sound for the high-tech remix video (Teach 3) (Lesson: Rework, Reuse, Remix, 2012)

· Lessons also generally include an ‘Extension Activity’ to cater for any gifted and talented learners, for developing and shaping the learning further, or for those who wish to take their learning beyond the lesson.

· I am not sure that each of the six lessons could be fulfilled in the 45 minutes it states that is required. The ‘Rework, Reuse, Remix’ lesson, would certainly require at least two or three times this amount to allow successful completion and learning, as mentioned above.

Evaluation of the information literacy components of the unit plan


Each lesson starts with an ‘Essential Question’, which guides the inquiry of the content. Lessons flow coherently in the most part, and address the learning objectives, leading to an assessment and understanding of the ‘Essential Question’ (see ‘Clarity’ above).

Lessons introduce learners to new methods of searching, and allow them to develop and use workable skills. This is evident in particular in the ‘Strategic Searching’ lesson, which provides both strategies and tips that learners have to apply. Lessons ask learners to bring what they already know, and then guides them into questioning that knowledge, whilst formatting new responses built on new evidence. This is particular evident in the lesson about ‘Creators Responsibilities’, but also in the ‘Gender Stereotypes Online’ lesson. For example, the ‘Creators’ Rights’ lesson ask learners to inquire into the song ‘Happy Birthday’, which is well-known, and well-used, but actually copyrighted. The case studies provided in lessons such as ‘A Creator’s Responsibilities’ uses videos and case studies for learners to come to decisions about based on the lesson objectives.

Finding Information

The ‘Information Literacy’ unit outlined in this paper offers strategies to help learners master the technology tools they have at their fingertips.

The first lesson in the plan, ‘Strategic Searching’, provides tips and techniques that learners can use for all searching purposes. For example, one search tip offered is to use “quotation marks around specific words or specific phrases you are looking for” and the example provided is to type, “White House” rather than white house (Lesson: Strategic Searching (6-8), 2012). These skills should be utilised throughout the remaining five lessons (and beyond), to ensure that they can efficiently search and access information for any given task.


The lessons ‘Strategic Searching’ and ‘Identifying High Quality Sites’ require learners to evaluate the information they find on the basis of accuracy and validity. It also asks them to think carefully about the way different people are presented online, ensuring they are aware of the information being ‘fed’ to them. This is an essential component of media literacy, which requires learners to be able to ‘read’ a variety of ‘texts’. A list of 30 questions is provided in the lesson ‘Identifying High Quality Sites’, which learners must use to actually evaluate a site. These are transferable skills that can be used to evaluate sites in other parts of the unit – and beyond.

Use of information
Whilst the lessons themselves offer some opportunities to sort through and present information in their own terms, I find the opportunities for the creation of a formal end product limited, particularly in terms of summative assessment that can gauge the true understanding and learning of the students.

Collaborative opportunities are present, such as the creation of song lyrics (Lesson: A Creator's Rights (6-8), 2012), and collages or videos (Lesson: A Creator's Responsibilities (6-8), 2012), though these activities appear to exist to assess the learning objectives more than to demonstrate the potential of real-world application.

Summative assessments have recently been released by Common Sense Media in the form of interactive online quizzes. However, these are divided by Unit 1, 2, or 3 and by Grade level. This requires teachers to cover ALL the lessons in Unit 1 (or Unit 2 or Unit 3) for the assessment to be useful. For Grades 6-8, Unit 1 comprises six lessons that cover six of the eight possible digital citizenship topics, where ‘Information Literacy’ is only one of the eight. ‘Strategic Searching’ and ‘Creator’s Rights’ are the only two lessons of a possible six covered in Unit 1. This means that using the lesson plans to teach a unit like this, on a single topic that is made up of two lessons from each Unit, has no means of summative assessment.

Currently, the ‘Information Literacy’ lesson plans have two possible options for assessment. The first is in the form of closing discussion questions in the ‘wrap-up’, e.g. “What are gender stereotypes and what do you think about them?’ (Lesson: Gender Stereotypes Online, 2012), or “Why can’t you directly copy information from on an online source, such as Wikipedia?” (Lesson: A Creator's Rights (6-8), 2012). The second is the quizzes that appear at the end of each lesson; they comprise three-questions, (as outined earlier), but the opportunity to use the learning to create authentic products is lacking. In terms of an overall ‘Information Literacy’ unit assessment, the options provided at the end of ‘Rework, Reuse, Remix’, lesson six of six in the scope and sequence, go some way in bringing together the unit objectives. However, there is no rubric or indicators for true summative assessment and use of learning, particularly in real-life, authentic applications.

Citing sources

The overview of the ‘Information Literacy’ unit plan states that it covers effective search strategies and techniques to evaluate quality, credibility, and validity, as well as how to cite and provide proper credit for sources used. It does guide learners towards being able to “identify, find, evaluate, and use information effectively”, but not how to format citation specifically (K-12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum, 2012, p.2).

In the ‘Creator’s Rights’ lesson, there is a ‘Teacher Background’ sheet included to help teachers understand and lead the activities around ‘Respecting Creative Work’ (pp. 1-4). Under the ‘ACKNOWLEDGE’ heading, learners are asked to evaluate their work by considering, “Did I give credit to the work I used?”. The guidance provided for teachers in delivery of this section, is to tell learners that “acknowledging the creator is a sign of being a responsible and respective creator” (p.3). The specific details suggests that to acknowledge someone’s work, learners should include “the creator’s name, title of the work and year it was made at the end of the paper or in the credits” (p.3). In terms of formatting, there is no specific guidance beyond the suggestion that teachers should use the “citation style used by your school” (p.3). Some teachers may need more guideance than this, particularly if there is no defined citation style in their school, or the one used is unfamilair to them.

Evaluation Summary and Suggestions for Improvements

Learners today have access to almost unlimited information, and whilst they able to 'use' the Internet for a variety of social purposes, today’s learners are not ”sufficiently computer literate and definitely not information literate when it comes to scholarly or business communication” (Dawson & Campbell, 2009, p. 33). Whilst this notion seems incongruous, anyone involved with education and technology knows that in reality, learners are often not making great choices - even in social realms. The Common Sense Media unit outlined in this paper, goes a long way in addressing issues surrounding ethical online behaviours, and teaches important skills that will allows learners to operate successfully in the digital world both in and out of the classroom.

Overall, the unit needs to be more aware of differences in terms of learning needs and cultural awareness. The lesson plans include no differentiated worksheets and lessons are very wordy. Whilst the lessons are ready to go, and the sections are clearly demarcated (see Organization, above), there is a lot of material to read through and vocabulary to understand if educators are not familiar with the content area. Lesson plans could also be improved by indicating on the cover that group work or paired work takes place in the lesson. This could go in the ‘Materials and Preparation’ section, so that teachers know to work groupings out before the lesson, in case there are particular needs in a class.

Whilst gender bias and stereotyping is directly addressed in the unit (Lesson: Gender Stereotypes Online, 2012), an overall fault of the unit plan and lessons is their American bias and lack of cultural differences. For example, as mentioned earlier, the example of “White House” is used to show how to use quotation marks to help search effectively (Lesson: Strategic Searching (6-8), 2012). Hurricane Sandy is used to teach learners how fake photos can be easily confused with genuine ones, leading to a real need to evaluate sites carefully (Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites, 2012). These examples are relevant, but perhaps could be used in addition with more recent natural disasters in different parts of the world, to appeal to non-American, international educational environments. If this lesson is written by and for the sole use of Americans, this could be more understandable. However, more cultural awareness needs to incorporated into every curriculum, to ensure all educators help to develop globally aware digital citizens all over the world.

To address the differing needs of learners, the lessons need to provide more options for ‘choice and voice’ (Davis & Lindsay, 2012). This means providing learners with a say in HOW they show their learning. This is apparent in the ‘Rework, Reuse, Remix’ lesson, where learners can create a low-tech collage OR a high-tech video. Allowing learners a voice and a choice in how to present their learning helps build a sense of reponsibilty and active engagment, which will in turn motivate them to do well.

The scope and sequence provides different pathways that can be taught discretely, allowing potential for personalisation of learning. Individual lessons could easily be embedded into English Language Arts schemes as appropriate and relevant. This would ensure that information literacy is covered and returned to throughout the year, rather than taught all at once and forgotten. I also think this provides clear authenticity and shows learners that information and media literacy are part of subjects, not discrete stand alone things that happen outside of the everyday experience of social and education online usage.

I think the order of the lessons within the unit could be changed without detriment – meaning there is maybe a lack of true cohesion, but conversely this offers a great deal of flexibility. Overall, each lesson and the six-lessons together as a Unit, develop the concept and support each other in terms of understanding essential areas of ‘Information Literacy’. Each lesson does have a small three-question assessment, meaning each can be delivered as a stand-alone teaching plan. However, as a Unit, the concepts are developed and linked. To deliver the unit effectively, the plans would benefit from a more substantial end-of-unit assessment that required learners to put into practice the things they had learned. There are activities within the lessons that require ‘creation’, but an overall assessment at the end, requiring them to bring all the skills and learning together that is assessed by a rubric relating to some of the standards covered, would enhance this Unit further.

Gordon (2003) suggests that one way to teach information literacy effectively is to “fight technology with technology” (p. 43) and delivery of this unit plan could be improved though enhanced use of technology and online planning, resources and delivery. At the moment, teachers have to download a PDF of each individual lesson plan and corresponding materials. There is no option to download a full unit, such as the six lesson of the ‘Information Literacy’ unit, even though there is a button on the website that allows the relevant lessons to be highlighted in the scope and sequence. In the PDFs, the links to the online resources in the PDFs are not hyperlinked, and the videos used are on the website and have no URL or hyperlinks. Having an online version of the lesson and the activities would be much more useful, and engaging, plus it saves flicking between a PDF and the site and other online sources.

Lessons could be improved through better options for the integration of technology into teaching, which would help engage the learners more readily. For example, the discussion activities, where a lot of content and vocabulary is covered, could be delivered in a ‘flipped classroom’ style (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Flipping classrooms means changing the way traditional lessons are delivered. This would require more planning on the part of the teacher, who would have to record the content parts of the lessons onto video and then set them to be viewed for homework. Common Sense Media could adapt the lesson plans to include these videos as part of the lesson plan. This pedagogical approach to teaching is beneficial to learners, as the video can be viewed and re-viewded as often as is needed for the learner to understand the concepts in it. Learners can then come to the class ready, with an understanding of the content, and/or with questions that can be answered. The lesson is then freed up to allow the follow-up activities and collaborative inquiry-based tasks that reinforce the content to happen in the classroom, with teacher support.

The three-question assessment quizzes at the end of each lesson could be created on Google Forms to be completed online; the questions would remain the same but the delivery method would engage and motivate learners more. Plus, the ability to show a summary of the answers in real-time, means that it is easy and quick for teachers to conduct assessment for learning, check the understanding of the class and individuals, and therefore reinforce future planning and learning.

If information literacy concerns the need to be able to search, evaluate, synthesize and cite accurately and effectively, we need to address the fact that searching has become synonymous with "Google" (which itself has become a verb) to a generation who do not look beyond the first few hits the ubiquitous search engine returns. Even more, they seem lacking in media literacy skills that would allow then to effectively analyse and 'read' the media constructs and variety of texts they are presented with on a daily basis. Add to this a culture of 'cut and paste' and we have a recipe for an ill-equipped generation unable to think critically about the information overload they experience daily. Dawson and Campbell (2009), state that ‘Information Literacy’ requires learners to be able to “locate, evaluate, and use effectively” the information needed for a particular task. In light of this, the Common Sense Media ‘Information Literacy’ unit goes a long way to delivering a comprehensive sequence of lessons that will equip learners with essential skills to allow them to be ethical and informed digital citizens.


Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. International Society for Technology in Education .

Common Sense Media. (2012). K-12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/curriculum-overview_0.pdf

Common Sense Media Inc. (2013). About Us: Our Mission. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/our-mission

Common Sense Media. (2012). Lesson: A Creator's Responsibilities (6-8). From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/6-8-unit2-acreatorsresponsibilities.pdf

Common Sense Media. (2012). Lesson: A Creator's Rights (6-8). From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/6-8-unit1-acreatorsrights.pdf

Common Sense Media. (2012). Lesson: Gender Stereotypes Online. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/6-8-unit2-genderstereotypesonline.pdf

Common Sense Media. (2012). Lesson: Identifying High Quality Sites. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/6-8-unit3-identifyinghighqualitysites.pdf

Common Sense Media. (2012). Lesson: Rework, Reuse, Remix. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/6-8-unit3-reworkreuseremix.pdf

Common Sense Media Inc. (2013). Scope and Sequence, Grades 6-8. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/scope-and-sequence#grades-6-8

Common Sense Media. (2012). Lesson: Strategic Searching (6-8). From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/6-8-unit1-strategicsearching.pdf

Common Sense Media Inc. (2013). Unit Assessments. From Common Sense Media: http://assessments.commonsensemedia.org/

Common Sense Media Inc. (2013). What We Are: Board Advisors. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/who-we-are/board-advisors

Common Sense Media Inc. (2013). Who We Are. From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/who-we-are/

Considine, D., Horton, J., & Moorman, G. (2009). Teaching and reading the millennial generation through media literacy. (d. (. database), Ed.) Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy , 52 (6), 471-481.

Davis, V. A., & Lindsay, J. (2012). Flattening classrooms, engaging minds: Move to global collaboration one step at a Ttme. Pearson.

Dawson, P. H., & Campbell, D. K. (2009). Driving Fast to Nowhere on the Information Highway. In B. V. (Eds.), Teaching Generation M: A handbook for librarians and educators. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Gordon, D. T. (2003). Better teaching and learning in the digital classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

ISTE. (2012). NETS for Students. Retrieved June 03, 2013 from International Society for Technology in Education: http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students

Lamb, A. (n.d.). From Comparison of information skills process models: http://www.ils.unc.edu/daniel/242/InfoSkillsComp.html

Stephens, D. (2013). Common Classroom Blog: New Interactive Unit Assessments Are Here! From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/blog/new-interactive-unit-assessments-are-here#.UnLRKW99ZsE.twitter

Holly Fairbrother, University of Maryland University College EDTC605 Fall 2013

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