Does an information literate person need to be digitally literate and vice versa?
This is me hopefully playing a bit of devil’s advocate here and shamelessly promoting work by Librarians in the field of Information Literacy.
Much of the discussion on “digital literacy” seems to look at the plumbing of digital tools rather than the quality of the information flowing through them, or the nuts and bolts of technology rather than what it is supporting – and neglect the notion of literacy. For me being digitally literate means having all the cognitive skills of information literacy PLUS the technical skills to make good use of resources PLUS a dimension of creativity in outputs which are difficult to achieve through the written word and an immediacy and step change in communication whether as a learner, teacher, support staff or creator.
In the JISC Digital Literacies materials developed by Helen Beetham and being used in this project the digitally skilled person must progress from skills (personal capabilities) through practice (ways of thinking and acting) to develop higher level attributes. The Information literate person should have these attributes of judgement, responsibility, the ability to synthesize and create new knowledge but will need to learn new skills to become digitally literate. We have all seen the whizziness of tools getting in the way of the communication (have a look at this Youtube for 4 minutes of fun) because the tool itself is compelling to play with. Could it therefore could it be harder for the person who loves technology to develop to literacy? I have been impressed with other bloggers here at Reading giving examples of the usefulness and context of the tools not just the tools themselves.
However I found a comment found on another Digital literacy project blog “Maybe being digitally literate is about knowing which pieces of information to know and which can be found, knowing how to find information and knowing what constitutes important information”. The notion of Information literacy (and probably the first librarians back in the days when the Library was the only secure repository of information worth keeping ) articulated this many years ago. The information literate person needs to identify an information need and knowhow to address their information and evaluate what you find.
On the UK Higher Education scene the SCONUL 7 pillars model of Information literacy first saw the light of day in 1999 though it built on work by library professionals particularly in the US and Australia and New Zealand before that. It has since been revised and divided into two documents – a core model for Higher Education and Information Literacy through a research lens. The latest draft is Information literacy through a digital literacy lens and you can still comment on this – contact me please.
See all of these and the original document and position paper on Information literacy at The original model was used and amended for digital and information literacy as one of the graduate attributes by Oxford Brookes.
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