“The common speak” and the garage man

Looking at some research data today on using an information literacy model in a primary school, I come across several instances of the teachers who were interviewed, asking for what one teacher calls “the common speak”. What this teacher means – and this is in the context of teaching information literacy skills across the curriculum – is that she would like all the staff to agree on the terminology that a) staff use when discussing IL skills and b) staff use with students. In this particular case, a number of staff had agreed to take part in a project and the teacher librarian had introduced them to the model favoured by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training. When we asked the teachers about how teaching information literacy skills across the curriculum might be enhanced, many of the teachers cited the need for a common terminology and most teachers liked the terminology in the model – although they were not exposed to any other information skills models. Now this issue has been around for a long time but there is not much clear evidence about the need for “common speak”. So how common is the “speak” on information literacy skills in your school?

In my experience, the people with the most fascinating terminology are garage mechanics. Now, over the years, I have been lucky enough to have my various cars looked after by local garages i.e. people who work long hours, always have oil-covered hands, don’t charge you the earth for fixing your car and who always seem surprised that you don’t take more interest in your car. As for terminology, they are in a class of their own. They assume that you’ll have some knowledge of the mysterious workings of car engines, so ( a recent example) they’ll say “the seal on the cylinder head is perishing”. I stand there, wondering if one of the seals from Dunbar harbour has come ashore, jumped on the head of some kind of cylinder and is freezing cold. I should take more interest but I’m with (I think) John Cleese who said that he wanted to die before understanding how the internal combustion engine worked.


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