Digital and Information Literacies – a 2018 Key Issue in Teaching and Learning

Each year, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) surveys individuals in higher education about what is most “exciting, pressing, consequential, and relevant” in teaching and learning. These key issues are published as part of their “7 Things You Should Know…” series.

The 2018 Key Issues in Teaching and Learning identified Digital and Information Literacies as the #5 issue. Digital and Information Literacies shows up on the “Key Issues” list regularly. In 2017, in part due to the 2016 election and the rise of “fake news” as a household phrase, the issue was #3, while in 2016 it was #11. Regardless of its place on the list, the fact that it is consistently present makes it a topic that institutions of higher education should be discussing and addressing.

ELI defines literacy as “the ability to find, evaluate, select, use, and create something.” And the focus on digital and information literacies is based on the demands of 21st-century learning and working, as they are identified by the National Council of Teachers of English. ELI highlights the extent to which technologies are changing the workforce and how many jobs that current students will have in their lifetimes do not exist yet. This makes it “critical for workers to be agile, adaptable, and willing to continue to learn.”

What is Randolph-Macon College doing to ensure our students are information and digitally literate?

  • Every ENGL 185 class has an information literacy component, often in partnership with a librarian who ensures that students know how to use the latest library resources in their research. Unfortunately many students can place out of ENGL 185, but students who take it learn not just how to find information (peer-reviewed articles, books, news stories), but also how to evaluate those resources in light of the assignment (the information need). Picking the right source to meet that need and using it properly  and ethically are also important parts of being information literate, and using the work of others to create something of your own, be it a research paper, poster, presentation, or anything else.
  • Librarians are available to meet with students one-on-one to discuss these topics, and are working to bring these skills, at a more complex level, to upper-division classes in the majors.
  • Digital literacy skills are being taught by the Instructional Design & Technology staff in workshops and sessions that teach digital storytelling and our electronic portfolio system.

These interactions with students provide a good foundation for addressing information and digital literacy needs on campus. Embedding these skills more formally into the curriculum and providing scaffolded support throughout a student’s four years at R-MC would strengthen students’ abilities in these areas, allowing them to transfer those skills to a work environment.

While the tools and the context will change over time, skills such as knowing how to evaluate information or media, taking into consideration issues of ownership and authorship, will help ensure that R-MC students have what they need to continue to be flexible and creative learners long after they graduate.

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