Week 7: Trends Reflection: Information Literacy!

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      Nicole Steer

      Information literacy is one of my favourite topics this semester! (Though they’re all very good, obviously. ;)) It’s one I get very passionate about and I was glad we were able to have a great Twitter chat about it.

      It feels to me that in Australia we are in two minds about information literacy. In places like the wealthier and more socially-oriented parts of Northern Europe, information literacy and access to the internet are seen as human rights, even enshrined in their laws. There is actually an effort made to upholding these rights. As a result, Finnish schools, for example, are in the position where they can phase out teaching students how to do “running writing”, and can focus on teaching them touch-typing from a young age. All children have access to computers at school, almost all have them at home, almost all know how to use them and why.

      In Australia, however… Schools will assume that the students know how to use computers and the internet and have access to computers and reliable internet at home – but the government (which runs all the state schools) has made little provision to making sure that students do have access to computers and reliable internet at home – because, after all, internet is a luxury, not a human right – right? We’re in the odd position where the government seems to regard internet as a luxury, but a luxury that everyone has and should be expected to have. See the previous federal government’s attempts at rolling out the NBN, as an example – it was planned as a magnificent, life-changing upgrade to Australia’s communication network, but was slashed and crimped and cut to something that was passable, but nowhere near as grand; then it was shelved entirely when the current federal government came into power, only to be resurrected in a hideously malnourished form that is likely to be outdated before it’s completed. (Don’t let any of my friends who work at ISP companies get started on copper vs fibre optics!)

      This ties into info literacy as a whole because, well, a child can’t very well learn how to use the internet if they’re only able to access the internet during their twice-weekly IT lessons at school (where they should be learning how to use Excel or whatever else is on the curriculum and not goofing around on internet forums, anyway). And if five of your students don’t have access to computers at home, and you only have two computers in the classroom, how do you expect everyone to be able to type up a complete report for each of their assignments (after all, very few teachers will accept hand-written assignments these days)? It shouldn’t shock anyone to realise that the groups most at risk with regards to information literacy are those who tend to be disadvantaged in general – the poor, refugees and recent migrants, people of Aborignal and Torres Strait Islander descent, people with a disability, people in remote or rural areas (dare not even think about people who tick more than one of these boxes).

      It’s my opinion that information literacy can only begin to be addressed when governments start making it an issue. You can’t expect a nation to become information literate if helping people become information literate is not a defining part of your policy and something you actively work towards.

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