I went to the library, not because I was looking for information about this topic, but because I wanted a cool title for this post. I thought, “Hey, let’s find what this would be classified as in the Dewey Decimal System and use it. Make people think I’m super cool.”
I was not successful. But I also didn’t look very hard. Mostly because of what else the search brought up.
Through my search of “Dewey Decimal classification of digital literacy,” I stumbled upon the American Library Association Digital Literacy Task Force.
That’s right — the coolest task force in the country. Booyah.
And here’s how they defined Digital Literacy:
“the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”
This definition is excellent because it breaks down the concept into four main parts:
To be digitally literate, one must first be able to know where to find information, and how best to find it. Using tools and tricks like Boolean searches, narrowing and broadening keywords as need be, and selecting the proper database(s) for the task are all parts of finding information. However, finding that information is only the beginning.
That the information was found means nothing if that information is useless. Sure, that psychology article might have been peer reviewed and accepted into that scholarly journal, but that was in 1952. Times have changed, and information with them – thank goodness. Determining the quality – and therefore usefulness – of information means evaluating when, where, and by whom the information was published. A website about 24th President Grover Cleveland created by a high school freshman isn’t as good of a place to find quality information, unlike a published biography from a historian, such as the one found here.
The third criterion is the ability to create information, and this caught my interest. Why is creation a part of digital literacy? This is something I think I would like to explore more over the course of this class. I struggle with the word “create” — is information created? Is it created in the way I would create a drawing, or write a scene? Or, rather, is information something that is observed and collected?
Life is comprised of information: sensory information, literary information, etc., and in my opinion a creator, rather than creating this information, utilizes and reorganizes that information to say what they want to say. The question I would ask then is: is this act of reorganization/utilization an act of creation?
On the other hand, the final point, which is the ability to communicate information, was not a surprise. Most times, when we go looking for information we are not only looking for ourselves. Often it’s to write a paper, or a report, or to prepare a presentation in the workplace. Once we have the information, it becomes the case that we must do something with it. The ability to communicate information effectively includes knowing how to keep the information true to its original context, how to make it accessible to its audience, and how to best distribute the information.
The Digital Literacy Task Force’s report also points out that a key part of digital literacy is “a commitment to lifelong learning.” I couldn’t agree more; in my 21 years of life, I’ve seen: dial-up, the last vestiges of the floppy disc, the release of the DVD, the pervasive rise of the Internet, the debut of the smartphone, and even virtual reality. Computers used to be huge and now I can hold one in the palm of my hand.
My point is, we need to commit ourselves to lifelong learning, because the rate of innovation and invention isn’t liable to slow down. Learning how to use the best tools for the job is important for everyone, but especially for those of us who will be, in some form or another, educators. Nobody wants to be the teacher who doesn’t know how to make the YouTube video full-screen (ah, fond high school memories), and that requires paying attention to new ideas and maintaining a willingness to learn.
I also spent some time on the State Library of Iowa’s website, digging around their resources on digital literacy, and crying because their website looks better than Nebraska’s. Then I took a shower, because — shudder — Iowa.
No offense to those of you from Iowa, but I am an Eastern Nebraskan, and there’s apparently some kind of rivalry? To be frank, I don’t really know, but somewhere along the line it got ingrained.
Back to the point. The last point I want to make.
The State Library of Iowa, in their overview of digital literacy, used words like “intersection” and the ALA’s report used “interrelationship.”
I think it’s important to keep in mind that digital literacy is multi-dimensional, and not just in the way that it can be broken down into four parts. It deals with aspects that don’t only cover resources, but also covers intersections of race, class, age, and ability. The Digital Divide refers to those who don’t have access to digital resources such as the Internet or a computer. It’s important to remember these issues when discussing and implementing digital literacy strategies. Not everyone has it, but it’s deemed necessary, and so how do we as educators proliferate digital literacy in our communities?
After all, this digital age has brought levels of connectivity we haven’t had before. It’s important to make sure that no one’s getting left out.