Developing Information Literacy

Jennifer Phiambolis, Director of Libraries
As a Middle and Upper School Librarian at Shipley, one of the most crucial aspects of my role involves supporting students in the development of critical thinking and information literacy skills and helping them navigate the complex and confusing landscape of online information. In an effort to reach as many students as possible, I have been partnering with teachers across all disciplines to integrate library research into their course projects, allowing time for formal information literacy instruction. This involves guiding students in evaluating sources and discerning credible information, with a focus on authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and relevance. The goal here is to empower students to make informed decisions about the reliability of the information they encounter.

A key part of teaching information literacy is instilling in students the habit of questioning what they find online, encouraging a reflective approach to information consumption. This critical mindset is crucial for identifying and challenging misinformation. Mere fact-checking is no longer sufficient; there is a need to analyze online content for bias and uncover potential misinformation tactics hidden within the text. We need to talk to our students about how biases can influence information and underscore the importance of recognizing and understanding various perspectives.

Equipping students with the tools needed to discern credible information from misinformation is no easy task. Recent studies show that the majority of teens and young adults get their news from social media, many citing TikTok as their main source for information (Pew Research Center). My primary area of instruction revolves around academic research, where the influence of social media is not a significant factor. Fortunately, the information literacy skills we cultivate at Shipley extend beyond the classroom and have real-world applications.

Real-Life Learning

In 6th grade SEED, I did a lesson that I like to call “Plagiarism in the Real World,” where I show the class examples of copyright issues that involve popular culture. In my experience, framing these important and often challenging topics in a fun, can you believe it?! way helps kids develop a deeper understanding of what’s really at stake here. I can teach them the fundamentals of copyright all day long, but showing them a fake Vogue with Drake on the cover has them talking about it with their friends, thinking about why it matters. 

In 9th grade History, I had the chance to introduce a few library database and search tips to help the students with a research paper. Part of my presentation included a discussion on evaluating websites. I showed the class a few sites and asked them to try and quickly determine if they were trustworthy after just a cursory inspection. I choose websites that I know will be tricky—some look amateurish and silly but have quality information, and others look sleek and professional but do not include any information on the author or publisher. This is always a fun exercise because, more often than not, they guess wrong and we start clicking our way through the site to look for clues. 


The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.