Monday, October 22, 2012

Digital Literacy: A Primer

Digital Literacy is a topic that I have been wanting to write on for some time, as it encompasses a lot of what I do. However, due to its breadth, I have struggled to find a clear definition of it. Enter Leanne Drury Melsness and her wonderful presentation, "Digital Literacy Initiatives," at Netspeed 2012.
As Manager of Digital Literacy Services at Edmonton Public Library, Leanne has been working hard to make Digital Literacy a core service, as per EPL’s Business Plan for 2011-2013. Her presentation was not only on what Digital Literacy is, but how she and her three librarian teammates are implmenting it at their library. Leanne uses the same definition for Digital Literacy as the OITP Digital Literacy Task Force: “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” To succeed as a citizen in today’s world, one needs to be digitally literate.

Digital Literacy is necessary for carrying out any number of activities:

1.)    Access and Skills: To be digitally literate, needs access to technology, and technological tools,and have the skills to use them effectively.

2.)    Social Inclusion: People use technology today to communicate, seek employment, find government information, participate in political action, care for their health, access education, continue lifelong learning, practice economics/commerce, and be culturally active. Digital Literacy allows a person to fully engage with these areas.

3.)    Creative and Personal Expression: Knowing how to create products and art  through the use of technological tools is another aspect of digital literacy.

4.)    Ethical and Critical Thinking About Digital Media and Information: Because technology now allows us to access many news sources and content streams, this is skill that is now required by everyone. Being able to examine your own use and understanding of technology is part of this this critical thinking ability.

Digital Literacy is important for public libraries because we are in the unique position of being able to provide our communities with the space, tools, and resources to play, learn, and work in a digital environment. We do this every day when we help a patron use the computer, access eBooks, print out resources and more. I hope to write more on implementing Digital Literacy training in a upcoming post, but for now, I need to go fill my head with more information!

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