We Share a Few Thoughts About Digital Literacy After this Announcement From ALA:
The Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) advisory committee authorized a Digital Literacy Task Force during the 2011 Midwinter meeting. To that end, OITP staff has been working with its advisory committee, AASL, PLA, ACRL, LITA, OLOS’ Committee on Literacy, and the Office for Intellectual Freedom, as well as Chapters, to put together a stellar group (pdf) that will look across all types of library settings to identify common concerns and develop a shared vision for improving services and positioning libraries in this evolving role.
The Task Force Charge (pdf) emphasizes the general recognition among librarians and non-librarians alike that literacy skills now encompass the need to be fluent with a variety of technologies and applications – including being able to locate and use online resources:
“Federal, state, and local government agencies; community-based organizations; educational institutions; public policy organizations; and foundations recognize that our society is at a critical juncture with regard to the changing information landscape and competencies needed to thrive in the digital environment. How we, as an organization and a nation, respond to the challenges will have a lasting impact on education, economic development, civic engagement, and global competitiveness.
Our nation’s school, public and higher education libraries are an essential part of the solution.” (from the Charge)
The Task Force will begin its work with an environmental scan to develop a comprehensive understanding of what types of activities already are in place related to digital literacy, where there might be gaps, and how to prepare the association for the changing landscape of digital literacy. Given that technologies change rapidly, we know that what we are considering today may not be as relevant in the near future and we want to make sure that we are ready to tackle the next “version” of information literacy.
A Few Comments
Info literacy and digital literacy is all ready a very important topic for the information profession that we think has good chance of becoming the MOST important topic for info pros in the not so distant future.
We can have some great online tools, access to materials that we, not so long ago, could only daydream about, and access to the Internet just about anywhere. However, that’s how an info pro might see it. However, awareness of what’s available and the skills needed to feel comfortable using some of these tools is another issue for many people. Of equal importance are the skills necessary to analyze info for currency, accuracy, source, etc.
Those of us who use the technology and experience the unprecedented access day and night can easily forget that some? many? most? people aren’t as passionate about access, online search, apps, etc. as we are. That’s OK to some degree.
However, a number of basic digital literacy skills must be a requirement for all students just as math and reading. Plus, having an organized outreach to share digital literacy skills with those who are not in school.
One example of what we’re talking comes from your good ol’ general purpose search engine. We’ve met many people have little idea about how they work even at the most basic level (crawl, linked pages, gaming, how a search company makes money, etc.) yet they use Google, Bing, and others all day, every day.
What we’re talking about is a couple of hours (if that much) of training and discussion about several key issues with search engines. The same goes for a variety of other online skills (privacy, sharing/collaborating, archiving important material, etc.)
Most often the next big thing is a new or enhanced piece of technology but perhaps the next big big thing for the information professional should be an all out attack on what is a already a major concern (some refer to it as another digital divide) that will likely grow in severity in the future.
Bottom Line: This is yet another issue where libraries/librarians have a wonderful opportunity to shine brightly. We can’t allow it to slip by.