Exploring Hidden Sources: Introduction to Consumer Reports at the Urbana Free Library

Within a public library, this popular technology workshop is designed to provide a “library orientation” to Consumer Reports from the library website. Drawing on the work of Virginia Eubanks, John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Jane Addams, the session will help participants work towards achieving a “critical consciousness” of the technology-person-relationship, anchored in daily lived experiences. We will explore and compare Google searching to Consumer Reports results and information, as well as engage in discussion of broader information-seeking process issues, to work towards a more critical understanding of technology and information as not value-neutral but deeply “loaded” concepts that have real effects on our lives. By de-centering the “instructor” and instead building on student-teachers’ and teacher-students’ existing technology expertise (as defined by Eubanks in Digital Dead End), this workshop will help participants define and work towards their goals in overcoming, changing, or working within existing technology and social structures, anchored in a digital literacy class focusing on Consumer Reports. This workshop could easily be modified to introduce any other subscription-based resource, if Consumer Reports is not available or not the best resource to meet local and organizational needs.

Within a 90-minute workshop, participants will be able to:

  1. Explore the library-subscribed resource Consumer Reports in order to use this resource to meet their goals as individuals and community members.
  2. Critically compare and contrast subscription-based resources with free Internet resources like Google, in order to develop skills for evaluation of resources and information “on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context” (AASL, Standards for the 21st Century Learner)
  3. Recognize and develop confidence in local/indigenous knowledge and expertise, in order to become more empowered digital citizens.
  4. Build and strengthen community relationships between patrons, librarians, facilitators, and other community members, in order to more effectively achieve the community development goals of a high-tech equity agenda (Eubanks, 2012, pg. 157).

Learning outcomes are written as ideals, to be worked towards both within this workshop and within a larger digital literacy curriculum. Only outcomes one and two are expected to be accomplished within this workshop; outcomes three and four are ideals to be worked towards through the workshop, so that participants have at least taken first steps towards accomplishing those outcomes before they leave.

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