One of my favourite days of the year is the TeenTech awards at the Royal Society which were held this year on 25th June. As part of my role as Chair of the CILIP Information Literacy Group I have attended and judged these awards now for the past four years. TeenTech was co-founded by Maggie Philbin OBE (BBC Tomorrow’s World), and Chris Dodson, OBE, and runs initiatives across the UK for young people aged 8-18, focusing on science, technology, research and enterprise. The idea is to inspire young people to become innovators in these areas and to hopefully encourage a life-long interest in science and technology.
I am involved in judging and shortlisting pupils for the Research and Information Literacy Award which is awarded to pupils in the 13-16 age range, for the way they approach their research, their use of resources and expert opinion to inform their ideas. This year I attended with Deputy Chair of the group Lisa Jeskins, School Libraries Representative Rebecca Jones and Stephane Goldstein, Advocacy and Outreach Officer.
This year’s Research & Information Literacy award was won by The Ladies College, Guernsey for their project creating a device to identify sugars in foods which would allow diabetics to more accurately monitor their sugar intake. Meanwhile the Best Research Project which is awarded in the 16-18 age category for a piece of original research, was won by Oakham School for their project looking at the ‘Under-representation of women in computer science’.
The day was inspiring and we were really impressed with the complexity and innovation of the ideas we saw. The students involved are passionate about their ideas and they are also aware of the limitations of search engines and the need to think about quality information. However, one of the things I observed from projects in previous year’s is that teaching research skills and digital and information literacy at secondary school is often very limited. Students would have a tendency to say ‘I did some research’ without thinking about approaching that in any sort of structured way. And the help and support they get in schools can vary enormously. With this in mind, the Information Literacy Group has also created a set of resources to help young people involved in TeenTech with their research and to help them protect their ideas.
From this initial set of leaflets, the group have developed the Research Smarter guides that can be used by school librarians and teachers to support the development of digital and information literacy in young people. They cover the whole range of information literacy activities, from how to use search engines to protecting your own intellectual property. These guides are available under a Creative Commons Licence so can be downloaded, customised and adapted for use in schools or in other educational settings. They can be particularly useful for students making the transition into higher education where they will be expected to develop their independent learning and critical thinking skills. I’m involved in TeenTech because I think the earlier we develop these skills, the more chance we have of equipping future generations with the abilities they need to thrive in a digital world and to make judgments about information that they encounter in their personal and professional lives.