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New Report Highlights School Libraries’ Promotion of Digital Literacy February 5, 2013

Posted by Wendy Stephens in AASL News.
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January 24th, the American Library Association’s Digital Literacy Task Force, led by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy in Washington, released “Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Public Policy,” a report highlighting support for digital literacy in the context of school, public, and academic libraries.

digital literacy, libraries and public policy

The report begins by setting out a working definition of digital literacy:

Digital literacy is 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.

The moving target of digital literacy is presented as a collaborative product of a range of information agencies, providing a continuum for growth and development over an individual’s lifespan.

Among the highlights for the School Libraries section of the report:

“School libraries always have been interdisciplinary spaces deeply connected to the curriculum, instrumental in developing students’ research and information literacy skills, and committed to creating an environment of free reading that supports lifelong learning and curiosity. These traditional roles and strengths are increasingly critical as society faces a deluge of digital information, and the lines between content user and content creator are blurred and even actively
deconstructed.”

The segment entitled “The Central Role of School Librarians in Student Learning,” includes the increase in mobile technology and dispersed information sources as a rationale for increased online communications: “The library and librarian are less limited to a single physical space and must maintain a strong presence across classrooms and through student social networks that enable learning outside classroom walls. A “connected” educational environment offers significant opportunity for partnering with teachers in curriculum development, lesson planning, and inquiry-based learning that is interactive and iterative. Moreover, collaboration and sharing enable valuable reuses and partnerships. For instance, a library web page’s online module on Shakespeare might be developed for multidisciplinary use, benefiting English, world history, and theater classes and activities.”

The role of school librarians as technology leaders is reinforced later in the report: “Using standards-based techniques, a collaborative teaching environment enriched through creative integration of technology tools takes learning beyond standardized tests and enables learning that embraces digital spaces, content, and resources and emphasizes that the process of learning is as important as an end product. An increasing focus on technology-enabled participatory learning also leverages the orientation of today‟s and tomorrow’s students, for whom a digital environment is expected.”

Another section, “School Libraries at the Cutting Edge,” highlights innovative technology use in library media programs at New Canaan High School Library in Connecticut, the Henrico County (Virginia) Public Schools, and The Unquiet Library at Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia.

The Digital Literacy Task Force which authored the report was made up of school, public, and academic librarians representing a range of ALA units. Frances Jacobson Harris and Wendy Stephens were the most recent AASL representatives.

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