Debbie Schachter: Critical Engagement

What is digital literacy?

I translated this question as: What does digital literacy mean to me? When I first heard the term ‘digital literacy’ I thought of it as the skills related to using technology to be able to access, retrieve, and contribute to digital communications. As I thought about it further, the implications for a digital environment mean that we are explicitly extending traditional ‘literacy’ beyond the print communications of our history (as digital communication can incorporate text, still and moving images, and other non-verbal communications). With digital literacy, we are identifying the need to first decode digital information, in whatever form it takes, and then create responses or contributions to the information, in a digital environment. In an educational environment, what is critical today is helping students to understand the different types of platforms and locations of digital conversations; understand how to evaluate and critique the information they are accessing including its context; and to develop the abilities to contribute to the discussions, in which ever digital forms they may be.

What impact does digital literacy have on your personal, professional, and spiritual* life? (*However you interpret this.)

Digital literacy is a daily concern for me as the head of a University Library in a teaching university. Digital literacy is an important aspect of the information literacy teaching that librarians undertake to help develop students’ critical perspectives to information they seek for their research, and as citizens of the world. In my personal world, I find myself educating others by encouraging people to take more critical approaches to the information they are retrieving and sharing. I also encourage others to take responsibility to educate themselves on the platforms and the means by which digital information is being disseminated, and to contribute accordingly. As a Canadian, I feel that digital literacy is a responsibility of all citizens for ensuring that our democracies work effectively now and in the future.

Who are you? (context matters)

I am Debbie Schachter, the University Librarian of Capilano University in North Vancouver, Canada, where I lead a department of librarians and staff in a teaching-focused university. I am also completing my research on the teaching of critical information literacy within my province, within a Doctor of Education program at the University of Edinburgh.

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