Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?

We’re currently trying to write an information literacy curriculum that would go from K-12 and you raise many of the questions that we have been battling with, along with a few of our own.

Information literacy (IL) is a continuum. If I may metaphorically link it to mathematical knowledge for a moment – you can get by in math for quite a long time by relying on memorisation of “math facts” and formulae, however without “number sense” you’re going to come adrift at some point when the problems get hard or you draw a memory blank. In schools we teach math as a cumulative process that builds on understanding, so you don’t teach multiplication before your students have mastered simple addition.

So to bring this back to IL. What I’m seeing you hint at in your article is the idea of threshold concepts (see a presentation I made on this here:

* How can we unpack what is developmentally and pedagogically appropriate at what age?
* How do we as librarians curate digital resources like we’ve always curated a library collection without “spoon feeding” so that students are incapable of getting to good sources on their own over time?
* How do we manage the school political climate so that IL is embedded in project based learning, embedded in assignments, embedded in teaching and learning?
* How many teachers who are not teacher-librarians or information literacy trained are actually capable of doing this stuff?
* How many parents are able to provide guidance at home at homework/assignment crunch time?

What you are demonstrating above is a skill-set that has been honed by a TON of practice and experience. If we teach IL in isolation as stand-alone library lessons just at one point in the year when time and timetable allows we will never get there.


One of the problems I’ve had for a while with traditional digital literacy programs is that they tend to see digital literacy as a separable skill from domain knowledge.

In the metaphor of most educators, there’s a set of digital or information literacy skills, which is sort of like the factory process. And there’s data, which is like raw material. You put the data through the critical literacy process and out comes useful information on the other side. You set up the infolit processes over a few days of instruction, and then you start running the raw material through the factory, for everything from newspaper articles on the deficit to studies on sickle cell anemia. Useful information, correctly weighted, comes out the other end. Hooray!

This traditional information/web literacy asks students to go to a random page and ask questions like “Who runs this page? What is their expertise? Do…

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