To reiterate,the logic of our overall discussion starts with the macro concept of Digital Participation which provides the wider societal backdrop to educational development. Information Literacy enables digital participation and in educational institutions is supported by Learning Environments which are themselves constantly evolving. All of this has significant implications for Curriculum and Course Design.
As we stated in our introductory post, our perspective is rooted in Information Literacy. We believe it is a key field to be deployed in developing digital infrastructure in universities. For our purposes Information Literacy can be described both narrowly, as a set of personal skills and approaches to better acquisition and use of information, and more broadly as a social construct arising from notions of the both the knowledge economy and information society.
In the broader perspective, UNESCO is in the vanguard of deploying the term in relation to media, citizenship and education by asserting Information Literacy as a key requirement of participation in learning, employment and democracy. The Alexandria Proclamation (2006) states that information literacy:
• comprises the competencies to recognize information needs and to locate, evaluate, apply and create information within cultural and social contexts;
• is crucial to the competitive advantage of individuals, enterprises (especially small and medium enterprises), regions and nations;
• provides the key to effective access, use and creation of content to support economic development, education, health and human services, and all other aspects of contemporary societies, and thereby provides the vital foundation for fulfilling the goals of the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on the Information Society; and
• extends beyond current technologies to encompass learning, critical thinking and interpretative skills across professional boundaries and empowers individuals and communities.”
More practical information can also be found in Woody Horton’s Information Literacy Primer.
Whilst these concerns are driven by the growth of technologies and the internet, they are channelled by a need to expand our notions of literacy beyond the basics of reading/writing, to include media and information (UNESCO Decade of Literacy 2003-12).
Thus whilst technological change in the production and consumption of information content is a fundamental factor, it is not allowed to obscure the importance of developing the educational, ethical and democratic dimension of the digital society.
Personal Skills and Strategies of Information Literacy
Information Literacy is portrayed in terms of improving the information behaviours required to access and search various information systems to extract and use information for social, economic and educational purposes. This approach has been developed to a high level of definition and practical application in education, research and professional practice e.g. competency frameworks such as the SCOUNL Seven Pillars and ACRL and definitions by bodies such as CILIP .
There is a clear message that simply using information tools and services is insufficient to develop the full range of skills and also understanding of the legal/ethical issues involved. Education for Information Literacy is therefore a key aim, which requires further development, and has been gaining attention in HE for several decades.
These authors deal with the following key issues:
Clearly Information Literacy does not exist in a vacuum. For educational purposes the question of learning environment is essential, particularly with increasing use of digital environments, which inevitably stimulates a need to understand information and information behaviour more explicitly. This will be the topic of our next post.