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L. Botturi, L. Negrini

Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana (SWITZERLAND)
The Internet grants us basically unlimited and instant access to a potentially overwhelming amount of information. With the development of web 2.0 technologies and of social media, a new generation of prosumer has started to publish an exponentially growing body of user-generated content, breaking the system of editorially controlled information. Whenever we look for information online, we find more documents than we need or than we can actually consider and assess, and we eventually rely on automatic systems like search engines in order to decide what is eventually worth reading. While digital-immigrants adults still apply offline criteria to tackle such situations, young people strive to find their way into digital information management.

Information literacy (IL) is defined as the ability to locate, access, assess and use information from different sources (Ramalho Correia, 2002; Bundy, 2004; Jenkins, 2009) – a set of skills which are still central (or even more central) online. Indeed, IL is indicated as a key dimension of digital and media literacy (Hobbs, 2010; JISC, 2014; Carretero, Vourikari & Punie, 2017).

Some recent studies (Smith, 2013; Zampieri, Botturi & Calvo, in press) indicate that IL is poorly developed among young people, and that educational institutions – including schools and libraries – are not yet properly equipped to support its development, so that young people rather ineffectively learn such central skills unattended and on their own (Diehm & Lupton, 2012). What strategies do young people enact when they search and select information online?

This paper presents the first results of a survey-based study conducted in 2017 over 382 secondary school students in Northern Italy (age 11-14, grades 6-8) about their IL practices. The study focused on how secondary school students search for information online, what document formats they prefer (video, text, pictures, etc.), and the elements they rely on for assessing credibility. Such variables are analysed in relation with grade, gender, time online and the presence of parental rules for Internet use at home.

The results indicate that while there is no significant difference across grades, there are gender differences in the preferred online search mode online and result format. Time spent online also correlates with such differences. The presence of parental rules seem to play an important role: they affect not only the time spent online and the social setting in which Internet access takes place, but they also significantly correlate with more critical and effective online information search and selection behaviours.

The presentation will discuss the study and its results and draw implications both for in-class information literacy development, and to strengthen the collaboration between home and school on such issues.