"Fungus full of psychedelic drugs could cause Indiana Brood X cicadas' butts to fall off" (The Indianapolis Star)
"A fungus is pushing cicada sex into hyperdrive and leaving them dismembered" (NPR)
Students need information literacy skills more than ever, when even legitimate news items read like satirical headlines aimed at drawing clicks. The IU Libraries' Information Literacy Online Toolkit is a great starting place for instructors looking to help their students assess potential sources and be better informed. Jane Mason and Meg Meiman of IU Libraries developed the Toolkit in 2018 to help instructors at all IU campuses introduce students to evaluating and analyzing information they find online.
The Toolkit "is designed to start the conversation about information literacy," says Mason. It focuses on important concepts like credibility, reliability, authenticity, and authority. Available on the IU Libraries website, the Toolkit provides instructors with a way to introduce these principles into their courses through modules and video tutorials that integrate seamlessly into Canvas. Faculty can select the content they find most valuable for their students, and import it directly into their Canvas course.
Adam Smith is a senior lecturer in the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior at IU and used the Information Literacy Online Toolkit extensively in his Spring 2020 class, Introduction to Animal Behavior. This course, new to Smith, was a general education course with around 75 students, mostly non-majors and freshmen. He said that, as a biology professor, he is used to reading and evaluating scholarly articles. His students, however, have significantly less experience. Smith used several of the modules from the Toolkit to gauge students' ability to find and decipher quality information.
Smith said that even if professors don't plan on integrating the modules into their Canvas courses, the Toolkit can be helpful in developing class curricula. "Even just browsing the toolkit as a professor and looking at the materials that are there helped me think about the things that students might not know. Everyone should review it to see what issues freshmen might have when developing any exercise that involves students finding information."
Students have reported other valuable new skills beyond determining credible information: sifting through databases to find information; combining credible resources and blending them into an argument; and the importance of using information in a credible way.
Students need to have a baseline of information literacy as they move through college, said Smith, and the Toolkit was successful at ensuring that in his course. Smith is grateful for the Toolkit and the librarian support he received through the IU Bloomington Libraries Information Literacy Grant program, which he learned about through the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at IU Bloomington. The program provides a stipend and pairs an instructor with a librarian who can help them use the Toolkit, develop exercises, and implement the modules in the most useful and beneficial way possible.
IU Bloomington Libraries plans to restart the Information Literacy Grant program in spring 2022. The announcement typically goes out the semester before the grant period. Interested instructors should look for a call for applications this fall. They can also express their interest in advance of the callout through firstname.lastname@example.org or their preferred librarian. The grants are awarded to instructor/librarian teams, so interested professors will need to team up with a librarian.
Ultimately, if your students want to find out if cicadas' butts are really falling off, and decipher other cryptic online information, this Toolkit will help them develop the critical thinking skills to decipher fact from fiction. And those are skills everyone needs these days.