RDL Week 1: Diving Into the Digital Literacy Pool

In my other life, I am a living, breathing librarian. I’m taking an ALA eCourse called Rethinking Digital Literacy to Serve Library Staff and Users. Here is where I will post a few responses and other “extended learning” assignments over the next month.

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A condition, not a threshold.

On this particular day of the year, one can’t help but think of Doug Belshaw’s consideration of cultural literacy as it comes to digital literacies. “May the Fourth be with you” is definitely a meme that some understand and some don’t. Are those people “digitally illiterate”? Of course not. But they are conditionally out of the know for a particularly large moment in time.

It had been a while since I looked at the American Library Association’s official definition of Digital Literacy: “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” On the other hand, Belshaw is more into the idea of digital literacies: plural, context dependent, and socially negotiated. These two ideas don’t have to be mutually exclusive, as the former definition is more of a lofty pedagogy-style learning goal while the latter idea has more of a basis in action/reaction. Taking the idea that “those who will be most successful are those who embrace new ideas and adapt fluidly to new situations”, it’s good to think about how to get people to that openness, or at least thinking about finding it.

The most important thing to know is that digital literacies change over time. And we have to keep up with them, and change with them if necessary.

At my library, I am directly involved in developing an effective learning culture within the organization as well as building core technology competencies and the learning/training/staff development opportunities that go with those competencies. These things are all related, and can be supported by the ideas presented in this first week of digital literacy understanding. Belshaw’s concept of taking a person’s interests, and using them to guide their intrinsic motivation to become whatever version of digitally literate we consider to be the best one can definitely be utilized in those situations. But at the end of the day, our hope is that those interests are simply to learn more, as a learning organization, so that we can adapt as our customers do.

There’s lots to think upon here, including the vocabulary that can be used, definitions to latch to, and practices to consider taking up. As we move forward, I hope to come to a clearer understanding of how that might look for my library’s staff and our customers.  

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