What is PIL?
Project Information Literacy (PIL) is a nonprofit research institute that conducts ongoing, national studies on what it is like being a student in the digital age.
In the past decade, PIL has surveyed and interviewed almost 21,000 U.S. college students to examine how they interact with information resources for school, for life, for work, and most recently, for engaging with the news. To learn more, read PIL's FAQ or a summary of our key research findings.
"Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms": This January 2020 report from a yearlong study of students and their awareness and concerns about algorithmic-driven platforms that shape and influence news and information they receive. Research was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harvard Graduate School of Education, ER&L, a leading library conference, and the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina.
> Report landing page
> Press release
> Executive summary
> Students must learn algorithmic literacy (EdSurge article)
> College instructors need to teach algorithmic literacy (Usable Knowledge article)
> Experts say colleges must help students understand algorithms (VOA article)
> NIU prof calls for a new 21st century skill: algorithmic literacy (NIU article)
> NPR Minneapolis News podcast w/Barbara Fister (49 mins)
> Librarian's Guide to Teaching podcast w/Barbara Fister (36 mins)
> The Harvard EdCast podcast with Alison Head (16 mins) (transcript)
"Across the Great Divide: How Today's College Students Engage with News," Alison J. Head, Erica DeFrain, Barbara Fister and Margy MacMillan, First Monday, August 2019.
This lead article from the PIL Team in the August 2019 First Monday issue asks: How can college students and young voters be prepared with the information skills they need to assess news quality and credibility of the information found online and in print as the threats of “fake news,” propaganda, and bias multiply and intensify? Opportunities and strategies are identified for preparing students to gather and evaluate credible news sources, first as students and then as lifelong learners.
PIL AT A GLANCE
Director: Dr. Alison J. Head
Purpose: PIL is a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit institute that conducts ongoing, scholarly research about how young adults conceptualize and carry out information tasks in the digital age.
Volunteer Sample: See the 265+ community colleges, public colleges and universities, and private colleges and universities in the U.S. that have already joined. Read the FAQ about how your institution can join the sample.
Support for PIL research efforts has included:
ABOUT THE ALGO STUDY
To mark the 10th anniversary of PIL, we have released a special research report about the future of information literacy among college students in today's fast-moving information environment.
Emerging scholarship from multiple disciplines is brought together to consider today’s information environment and its most defining feature — the algorithm — the endless lines of opaque coding that make lightening-fast calculations and decisions for, and about, us that affect the course of our everyday lives in both helpful and unhelpful ways.
Qualitative findings from focus groups with 103 undergraduate students and interviews with 37 faculty at eight U.S. college campuses around the country are the basis of findings for this open-access report. Recommendations are also included for better preparing students as information users, sharers, and creators in the coming decade.
Our report is one of the first multi-institutional investigations into college students’ awareness of and concerns about how algorithms are shaping the news and information they receive
from internet giants, such as Google, Amazon, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
"Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms," ER&L, Austin (TX), Monday, March 9, 8:30 a.m. CST. Opening Keynote: Barbara Fister.
"Tales from the Algorithmic Frontlines," SXSW EDU 2020, Austin (TX), Monday, March 9, 11 a.m. CST. Panelists: Barbara Fister (podcast recording: 47:05).
"How Students Engage with News": This October 2018 report from our yearlong study of students and their news engagement practices, commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and Harvard Graduate School of Education, is available here.
"Kyle Jones: The Datafied Student and the Ethics of Learning Analytics": In this October 14, 2019 Smart Talk interview, PIL Scholar-in-Residence, Barbara Fister, interviews Data Doubles collaborator and LIS educator, Kyle Jones, about the double-edged sword of learning analytics and student privacy.
"Asking the Right Questions: Bridging the Gaps between Information Literacy Assessment Approaches": Is it time to re-frame information literacy assessment? In this October 2019, Against the Grain article, we introduce a typology for classifying and critiquing four levels of assessment widely used by academic librarians, while presenting reflective questions for strengthening ties among these approaches and maximizing teaching, learning, and assessment outcomes.
"7 Things you Should Know about Digital Literacies," Trudi Jacobson, Debra Gilchrist, Alison Head, and Joan Lippincott, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, July 29, 2019.