Week 7: Twitter Chat- Information Literacy, Digital Literacy & Digital Inclusion

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      This week’s topic – information literacy (IL), digital literacy (DL) and digital inclusion – really fired my imagination and feelings about becoming a librarian. Living in the developing world for many years has made social justice a very personal issue. Talking about the digital divide in the Twitter chat, my mind sparked with images of people I know well who are facing many barriers to participating fully in digital life.

      Weaving mats in Ambae
      Philippe Metois, 2003

      It was tweeted that information is a right, not a privilege, and communication is promoted as a fundamental human right, but a high level of inequality of access to both exists. As at Dec 2014, 4.3 billion of the world’s people were not online, 90% of whom live in the developing world. Only 21% of women in developing countries are online. Everywhere factors like age, income, education, race, disability, geography and connectivity create their own digital divides. The consequences are serious:

      “Exclusion from the digital world will have progressively worse social implications… It will imply exclusion from information, economic opportunity, social contact, even health, education or government services.” Neelie Kroes

      Even in Australia ……

      digital divide in Australia
      Infographic by Elisha

      We discussed first the importance of IL and DL. I loved these observations from Christine Bruce:

      “IL is the foundation for learning in the contemporary environment of continuous technological change.”

      “…information literacy education has the power to transform the learning process into one that will empower learners, and give them the capacity to engage in self-directed lifelong learning …”

      Lifelong learning and continuous change were themes that underpinned many of the comments about the importance of IL and DL.

      IL and DL improve education and employment outcomes. Accessing health and social security services in Australia require the ability to use mygov, which attracted heartfelt tweets. The prospect of all government services going online by 2017 dismayed many. “People excluded by the digital divide are already marginalised, & this can only make it worse.” @rae_kers and “The cost savings have to go towards helping people cope with the transition to digital.” @C_Sonn But will they? DL and digital inclusion are about empowerment and participation in an increasingly digital life. The exclusion of some is truly a social justice issue.

      Image by Meetville.com via http://www.thequotepedia.com

      Discussion around what it means to be literate in information and digital terms agreed that DL is one of a number of literacies. Media literacy, transliteracy and others were also touched on as literacies overlapping with IL.

      Digital Literacy

      Infographic by Sally Pewhairangi

      The extent to which librarians should support the technical problems of patrons or engage in technology training came next. Broadly, comments indicated that technology support is a necessary response to information needs of people in the digital age. The honest approach “If I don’t know the answer, I need to know where to find it” covered many concerns that librarians can’t, in practice, be across all software and platforms.

      When it came to programs, products and services that libraries could put in place to support digital inclusion ideas flew thick and fast:

      • Mobile services that reach out into the community
      • Basic computer skills – typing, email, chat, Skype, avoiding scams, safely downloading software, avoiding viruses
      • Life skills – online job applications, online banking, privacy and security threats, how to use government services
      Inquiry learning – creating informed learners in the community, the workplace and schools
      • Programs for young people – using social media safely, learning to code
      • Programs for seniors – ipad training, critically evaluating online medical information
      • Programs on accessibility technology and strategies for people with disabilities
      • Programs that increase ability to engage with government including complaints to elected officials

      Many of these ideas were concerned with people feeling afraid of technology, afraid of learning or afraid of libraries. The final thought about effective digital inclusion addressed this issue directly and came from one of our guest tweeters, The Librarian Idol:

      “a key to IL and DL is empathy. Not just understanding user needs, but also their fears.”

      Pentecost women with mats

      Image by Philippe Metois, 1991

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