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Information Literacy – The Umbrella for All 21st Century Literacies

As a member of the 21st century workforce skills movement, the practice of information literacy nurtures the development of a critical skill set needed so that any learner and/or worker can thrive and compete effectively in today’s global digital economy.

As we move further into the 21st century, we are convinced that information literacy will become the standard-bearer for academic achievement, workforce productivity, competitive advantage, and national security.

Definition of Information Literacy

Information literacy refers to a constellation of competencies revolving around information research, use, and practice across all occupations and professions.  It is the foundation for effective, lifelong learning practice, personal, and professional empowerment.

According to the Final Report of the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (1989), information Literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, synthesize, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.

Definitions Related to Information Literacy

Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Literacy is “using digital technology, communications tools, and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge society.” Digital transformation: A framework for ICT literacy, 2002.

Digital Literacy, simply put, is the ability to use effectively a variety of information and communication technologies and programs (software and hardware) in the workplace and/or the classroom.  Often used interchangeably with information literacy, digital literacy focuses primarily on use of various computer technologies and applications whereas information literacy skill development is a cognitive learning process that can engage or not engage the use of information and communication technologies tools.

Financial Literacy is “the ability to read, analyze, manage and communicate about the personal financial conditions that affect material well-being. It includes the ability to discern financial choices, discuss money and financial issues without (or despite) discomfort, plan for the future, and respond competently to life events that affect everyday financial decisions, including events in the general economy.” Vitt, LA, et al. Personal finance and the rush to competence: Financial literacy education in the U.S, 2000.

Health Literacy is “the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services they need to make appropriate health decisions”. Health Literacy: A Prescription to end Confusion.  Institute of Medicine, 2004.
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Media Literacy is “the ability to access, understand, analyze, evaluate and create media messages on television, the Internet, cell phones, social media, and other communications technologies.
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Scientific Literacy includes “an understanding of basic scientific concepts and constructs, an understanding of the nature and process of scientific inquiry; and a pattern of regular information consumption about scientific topics and developments.”
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Technology Literacy involves:
. “demystifying technology through conceptual understandings of the underlying science and mathematics principles
. operational competence with modern technology systems
. the ability to evaluate and use a variety of common technology applications
. the ability to innovate and invent ways of applying technology in challenging new situations
. an awareness of technology-related careers and of factors critical to success in those careers
. understanding of and sensitivity to societal issues related to technology.

Modern technologies rely on digital representation of information. They use mathematical and logical operations on these representations to access, create, manage, and communicate information. Information is accessed from a vast array of sources and is stored in a variety of formats and on a variety of media.Technology literacy that we require as a nation and as individuals involves conceptualization, engineering, production and testing.” Thomas & Knezek. Technology Literacy for the Nation and for Its Citizens, 1995.
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Visual Literacy is “a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences…When developed, they enable a visually literate person to discriminate and interpret the visible actions, objects, symbols, natural or man-made, that he encounters in his environment.” What is visual literacy?”
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Information Literacy Competencies and Standards :

For Students: The Nine Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning. From the American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications Technology.
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For Higher Education: Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. From the Association of College and Research Libraries.
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