Information Literacy in the Foreign Languages: A Collaborative Workshop Exploration

Supported by the ACM Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) Project.

September 24-25, 2010

Host: Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, in collaboration with Lake Forest College and Coe College.


Devan Baty, Assistant Professor of French, Cornell College
Joyce Janca-Aji, Assistant Professor of French, Coe College
Marcela Ochoa-Shivapour, Associate Professor of Spanish, Cornell College
Gizella Meneses, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Lake Forest College
Laurel Whisler, College Librarian, Cornell College
Jennifer Rouse, Consulting Librarian for the Humanities, Cornell College

Workshop Overview
The overall aim of the collaborative workshop on Information Literacy and Languages was to give participants the opportunity to discuss ways of better integrating information literacy into the study of languages in order to strengthen the cultural competence and global perspective of foreign language students. Institutional teams consisted of representatives from foreign language faculty, information literacy librarians, and academic media specialists in order to foster future collaborations between these groups in and outside of the classrom.

Noteworthy ideas that were highlighted in the workshop:

  • Better integration and collaboration is needed in the planning stages of course design between librarians, academic media specialists, and language faculty. Early collaboration will inform librarians and media specialists about what faculty know and don't know about the information and technological resources available to them. Faculty will, in turn, be able to articulate their pedagogical needs to librarians and academic media specialists before their course is underway.
  • Consistent training of language faculty on technology is needed, keeping them informed of available technologies and opportunities for hands-on use. (Examples include: Working with Libguides, LingQ (online tutorial language learning, open source), wikis, blogs, ipads, online textbooks, student-produced podcasts and videos, digital storytelling.)
  • Better communication between ACM language faculty, librarians, and academic technologists should be fostered by means of fora, annual meetings, and a listserv.
  • The possibility of a "curriculum caucus" should be explored, involving a course-planning meeting between faculty, librarians, alumni, students, and academic technologists. This will enhance collaboration between all of these groups and the design of the course syllabus will reflect not only the changing needs and interests of students but also the current status of research resources and tools related to the topic of the course.
  • Librarians are professionally multifaceted and should be more involved with course planning and teaching on campus. Their unique position enables them to see faculty's course material from both the perspective of students and colleagues.
  • Information Literacy instruction can and should be implemented in an early language learning environment in order to engage students and contextualize their learning in an authentic cultural framework.
  • Librarians can help language faculty integrate archival objects into language study.
  • Librarians can help language faculty capitalize on student interest and original research questions.
  • Libraries are not just for research papers—language faculty should consider designing assignments with librarians and academic media technologists using visual literacy concepts.
Workshop participants came to the following conclusions about what makes a student a scholar:
  • Having transliteracy skills, such as being able to interpret different media and express information using different media.
  • Understanding media communities, including conventions, points of entry, social rules, and how to ask questions.
  • Being able to communicate online in the target language.
  • Having an awareness of specific areas of knowledge for one's field that are different from those in other fields.
  • Transferring classroom learning to real life.
  • Being able to evaluate evidence with audience and purpose in mind.
  • Noticing and adapting to be fluent in other cultural norms.
  • Understanding a community of inquiry.
  • Having familiarity with sources of information.
  • Having the ability to distinguish legitimacy/ authority.
  • Having cultural curiosity, internal motivations.
  • Being able to develop consciously constructed arguments

Workshop Schedule and Program
Friday, September 24

The workshop began the evening of September 24th with dinner and a keynote presentation by Dr. Sue E. K. Otto, Director of the University of Iowa Language Media Center and Adjunct Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese and International Programs. The presentation was entitled "Information Literacy in the Foreign Languages: A Collaborative Workshop Exploration." In this presentation, Dr. Otto explored numerous meanings of the term "literacy," changing educational needs of the newest generation of students identified by Mark Prensky as "Digital Natives," changing educational reforms for the 21st century from teacher-directed classrooms to interactive collaboration between students, the most recent economic impact on institutions of higher education, and current trends in language pedagogy prompted by SLA research.

Saturday, September 25

The day began with small group discussions followed by a comprehensive wrap-up session from 8:30-9:15 about the various meanings of "information literacy" for foreign language pedagogy.
From 9:15-10:15, workshop participants attended two of five different information literacy activity presentations, respectively facilitated by John Gruber-Miller, Professor of Classics at Cornell College, Marcela Ochoa-Shivapour, Associate Professor of Spanish at Cornell College, Jen Rouse, Consulting Librarian for the Humanities at Cornell College, Devan Baty, Assistant Professor of French at Cornell College, Laurel Whisler, College Librarian at Cornell College, and Joyce Janca-Aji, Assistant Professor of French at Coe College. The group came together from 10:30 to 11 to work in small groups to design their own information literacy activities for the classroom.

The afternoon was divided into two groups of concurrent sessions. In the first concurrent session, participants attended two of three interactive presentations. Devan Baty and Jen Rouse led a session on "Authentic Inquiry & Critical Thinking," Marcela Ochoa-Shivapour and Rebecca Wines, Assistant Professor of French at Cornell College, led a session on "Cultural Literacy," and John Gruber-Miller and Laurel Whisler led a session entitled "Making Sense of It All: Analyzing and Synthesizing."

In the second concurrent session, language faculty attended a presentation on "Technology and Teaching Foreign Languages" by Renata Debaska-McWilliams, World Languages Center Director at St. Olaf. In this hands-on presentation, language faculty learned about how to use Nanogong to record voice files in Moodle. During this same period, librarians attended a round table discussion on their current and future collaborations with language faculty

From 2:15-3:15, participants were divided into groups consisting of librarians, language faculty, and academic media specialists in order to share ideas from the previous concurrent sessions and discuss how to better collaborate in the future.

After a short break, the entire group assembled for a concluding session in which small groups brainstormed about the top ideas they will take away from the workshop. These ideas were shared with the entire group. At the end of the day, participants were asked to fill out an evaluation form for the workshop.

Comments by Participants

Participants of the ACM Information Literacy in the Foreign Languages Workshop benefited in various ways from the conference.

Several participants reported that the workshop inspired them to increase the amount of collaboration on their campus between librarians and language faculty:

  • "I'm leaving with ideas to incorporate in a course for spring. Also ideas about how to facilitate more conversation between foreign language faculty and librarians on my campus. Thank you! This was very stimulating!"
  • "It has given me a clearer understanding of our mutual goals."
  • "I came away with different strategies to use in approaching faculty about library services."
  • "This has inspired me to develop information literacy assignments for 100- and 200- level language courses. I think there is a very clear need for work in information literacy at this level."
  • "This workshop changed my thinking about how librarians could help with designing assignments and courses for lower-level language classes."

Participants also reported that the workshop motivated them to design assignments at all levels of the foreign language curriculum which will better integrate technological, cultural, and information literacy:

  • "I enjoyed talking about assignment design and specific examples of projects that have worked that integrate information literacy principles."
  • "The workshop has greatly added to my understanding of the priorities of foreign language teaching, such as culture as an integral component."
  • "This workshop was really well organized and we covered a variety of activities that will help us improve our strategies in teaching information literacy."
  • "Broadened my perception of 'literacy' and its meaning."
  • "I will think on how I teach. I will help my students narrow down the ocean of information they live in."
  • "Getting students to start an activity with their own questions instead of me providing them with information."
  • "It has inspired me to try to make inroads where formerly I have lacked ideas or enthusiasm."
  • "I've started thinking about the integration of media and technology literacy in the languages."
  • "Making me more conscious of the strategies I already use and how they can be enhanced and made more explicit to students."

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