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Digital Literacy Reigns Supreme?

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Dear Bill,

Information Literacy vs. Digital Literacy - Not Again!

Information Literacy vs. Digital Literacy – Not Again!

Your recent ili list comments below deserve a NFIL spotlight.  No, you’re not a curmudgeon, not by any stretch of the imagination.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that information literacy practice is only on the radar of those who recognize the impending calamity of creating a technocracy without incorporating the necessary habits of mind that ensure the application of “informed”, democratic choice in the process.

If the Information Age and the world of social media have shown us nothing else, it’s that validating your information sources these days is an absolute must and, in these complex times, it certainly takes a level of skill only those in library and information science actually possess.

Why the Academy continues to apply a glass ceiling approach towards the inclusion of professional librarians as knowledgeable colleagues in the realm of curriculum reform and design may be an actual testament to their shortsightedness as culturally incompetent educators.

Our national report cards continue to illuminate our deep struggle, as a nation, with uplifting the worrisome percentages of learners who are not performing up to established academic standards. Library science has a strong body of research that documents the correlation between information literacy skill building and academic success.

But who’s listening, who’s reading the studies? Evidently not the educators that make institutional, state, and/or federal policy.  The language of the new ACRL IL standards appears to reflect Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, The Emperor’s New Cloths, in that the academic embellishment of the old standards cannot mask the apparent academic disconnect evidently inherent in the cultural ethos of the Academy.

Without information literacy training, first generation students, adult learners, returning workers, senior citizens, international students and others who have had no and/or limited experience in using information resources housed in the world of library will continue to reside in the Digital Divide universe, technologically astute, intellectually deprived, and powerless.

Instead of reinforcing the information literacy skill set of digital natives and digital immigrants, we’ll continue to nurture library natives while disenfranchising library immigrants in our on-going national efforts to expand college and career readiness among the masses.

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

James Madison

Thanks, Bill


“The Horizon Report annually provides insights into the future trends and technologies in higher education.  The 2015 edition has just come out – – and I am more than a little dismayed by the chapter on “Improving Digital Literacy,” (p 24-25).  Apparently academia is now waking up to the reality that students are using technology, but not very effectively, for educational purposes.  So digital literacy is supposed to teach students how to use technology well in working with information.  The Horizon Report views this current challenge as “solvable.” (This short chapter has the document’s only use of the term “information literacy,” which references the 2000 ACRL standards but not the new framework).

What I find incomprehensible is that the decades of work and reams of publications produced by information literacy specialists still appear to be on no one’s horizon (pun intended), while educators are focusing on technology as the issue.  They can’t even agree on a definition for “digital literacy,” but instead appear to be circling the wagons around the idea that students somehow need to learn how to use their phones, tablets and laptops with skill to deal with information intelligently.  The strongest attempt at definition of DL is this:

“Current definitions of literacy only account for the gaining of new knowledge, skills, and attitudes, but do not include the deeper components of intention, reflection, and generativity. The addition of aptitude and creativity to the definition emphasizes that digital literacy is an iterative process that involves students learning about, interacting with, and then demonstrating or sharing their new knowledge.” (p. 24)

Notice how content based this muddled statement is, despite its use of terms like “skills” and “iterative process.”  There is none of the depth of the new framework, which should have had pride of place over this digital literacy emphasis.

Am I just a curmudgeon, or are we still on the outside looking in on an academia struggling with issues for which we have solid answers?”


William Badke
Associate Librarian, Trinity Western University, for
Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Information Literacy
ACTS Seminaries |
Trinity Western University
7600 Glover Rd. Langley, BC, Canada V2Y 1Y1
t: 604.888.7511 ext. 3906 | f: 604.513.2063

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