Sunday, September 18, 2011

Information Literacy, Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship

As I'm working closer and closer with our school librarians I'm thinking about the terms we use to describe our roles and the skills we want our students to develop.  Over the past couple of weeks I've heard myself using the terms information literacy, digital literacy and digital citizenship and today I thought it was about time to have a good think about these terms and whether or not they are referring to the same things.

Information Literacy has been defined by the American Library Association in the following way:
To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and has the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.
Digital Literacy seems to be very similar: In Wikipedia it starts with a definition that is almost word for word identical to ALA definition of information literacy but adds on three new words:
Digital literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and analyze information using digital technology.
Then it goes a little further and defines digital technology as computer hardware, software, the internet, cell phones, PDAs and other digital devices.  It also adds on the concept, not of just finding and using the information, but also the skills of creating and communicating information.

Digital citizenship refers to the use of these skills to interact with society.

Last week I was in the library classroom at a time when our librarian was reading the book "Our Librarian Won't Tell Us Anything!" Robert, the main character in this book, finds that although the librarian won't actually place a book in his hand or find him a web site, she will teach him how to search the online catalogue and find the information he wants.  What she does is give him the tools to find the answers for himself.

It seems that both our library and IT teachers have the same role in this respect.  We are teaching the students to use the technology that is available to find the answers to the questions they have come up with as a result of their inquiries.

As our roles are changing, perhaps our titles should be too.  The library and IT departments are central to any programme where students are inquiring and constructing their own knowledge, our focus is not on the technology but on the learning.  As I was reading last week, we should not be thinking in terms of technology integration specialists (which is a role that many IT teachers have now taken on in schools), but of 21st century learning coaches.

Photo Credit:  L'amour toujours by Blair 25  Attribution 


  1. What is the source for the digital literacy definition?

  2. I am believing more and more everyday that the word "learning" should be in every role in education. This is our focus and shows we all have the same goal.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Hi Kristin, the definition is from Wikipedia - I added this source on - thanks for pointing it out.

  4. I think an important element of digital literacies is the ability to critically reflect on who (or which body) shapes the definitions we use. :-)

  5. Congratulations! We really need to prepare our students for the future by teaching them how to use technology, including web 2.0 tools.
    I keep a small community on Digital Literacy and Technology Integration, please, join us and share a little bit of your knowledge with us.

  6. I think the 21st century learning coaches is a brilliant idea. True enough, our role as teachers is very much like the librarian whose task is to prepare the tools that the learners can use even without him or her. I hope I'd be able to bring this kind of idea back in my place. We really need a revolution in the way teachers think.

  7. I find the term "21st century learning coaches" very appropriate for a teacher to adopt regardless of time and space. The librarian's task to bring out the tools for the learner to use is a great metaphor for a teacher's responsibility inside the classroom. I just wonder, if it is possible to teach Information Literacy, Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship even if technology is scarce.

  8. I teach and am building modular lessons for an IT literacy course. My tagline definition for IT literacy is "the skills and concepts needed for success in school and after graduation as a professional and a citizen."

    You can see an overview of the modular e-text at: