Libraries have always had the mandate to support and strengthen literacy. What once meant reading and writing, now applies to a much wider set of skills. Supporting digital literacies has become a logical extension of our traditional role.
In its January 2013 report, the American Library Association’s Digital Literacy Task Force defines digital literacies as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information, an ability that requires both cognitive and technical skills.” But it is really difficult to capture the full meaning of digital literacies in a couple of sentences.
Examples of digital skills can include, but are definitely not limited to, the following:
- Communicating respectfully online
- Writing code for a website
- Locating information online
- Thinking critically about stories in the media
- Posting information online with considerations for privacy, copyright and academic integrity
- Finding lost email
- Learning a new online tool
- Participating in a meme
- Troubleshooting a dead Internet signal
- Shooting and editing a video to upload to YouTube
Learning in the digital world, just like in any world, is a lifelong process. You can “master” a single digital skill, such as creating an app. You can also be considered digitally fluent, meaning you have a wide range of digital skills, but the learning never stops.
Back in the ‘90s, as information moved online, librarians, library technicians and other library workers were required to learn the skills to find, filter, evaluate and curate information so that we could assist our patrons. It’s only natural that we passed these skills on to our patrons so that they can also learn how to navigate an increasingly overwhelming amount of information in our libraries and online.
As the digital world continues to grow, so do our skills in the library world.
At Seneca College, the librarians and library technicians learned skills so that we could better teach and promote our library resources and services. As a result, we now have the skills to create online instructional videos, design infographics, use online tools and website-creation software, create animated presentations, and more.
It would be a real shame if we kept these skills to ourselves.
In partnership with the college’s Centre for Academic Excellence, a teaching and learning support center, Seneca Libraries is in the early phases of developing a digital literacies program at Seneca. This program will provide a complete support system for faculty and students.
We will provide editing stations, a recording studio, a series of face-to-face workshops and a set of online resources for creating things like videos, podcasts, infographics, digital stories and ePortfolios.
Each workshop and online guide will touch on all aspects of a particular digital literacy. For example, the Creating Instructional Videos workshop not only teaches the tools and software required for video creation but also discusses citizenship issues, such as copyright and privacy; and information literacy, such as finding credible research.
Faculty who already have various digital skills will be invited to become part of the digital literacies initiative by sharing their expertise with their colleagues. Student associates from Seneca’s many digital media programs will staff the recording studio and assist students with editing.
Although the initiative is in its early stages, there has been a tremendous response from students, faculty and administrators. Not only are they happy to be receiving assistance to gain these new skills, but also they’re excited to be able to use digital projects to increase creativity and engagement in the classroom.