When I was invited to serve as a member of the Digital Literacy Task Force in the spring of 2011 I was thrilled that OITP was forming a group to focus on the issue of digital literacy. I knew that digital literacy was a growing area of discussion not just among librarians but among policy makers and others concerned with the digital divide, 21st century skills and participatory citizenship.
Because of the short turn-around time for the Task Force and limited opportunities for in-person meetings we put our digital literacy skills to work for virtual meetings beginning in May 2011. One of the first action items the Digital Literacy Task Force agreed upon was the need for a clear definition of digital literacy. Because the Task Force is comprised of librarians from different types of positions in different types of libraries we all had a different perspective on digital literacy issues. We wanted to ensure that all librarians were talking the same talk when it came to the definition of digital literacy. We also knew that digital literacy is a hot topic not just among librarians but among policy makers across the country. The problem was there was no universal definition for digital literacy.
As we worked on a definition we considered definitions being used by other agencies, what foundation literacy means and the needs of 21st century citizens. We soon realized we had a need for more than one definition. In the age of Twitter and sound-bites we needed a succinct definition to share in appropriate venues. We also needed a longer fully developed version for getting into the depth and breadth of the issues.
After careful consideration we agreed that digital literacy is:
the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information requiring both cognitive and technical skills.
This definition is also in a forthcoming primer that looks more deeply into the necessary skills, the need for digital literacy, the digital divide and the role of all types of libraries.
Bobbi L. Newman
OITP Digital Literacy Task Force member