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Framework for Technological Fluency

to complement Information Literacy initiatives at the University of Lethbridge

“…just because students own digital devices does not mean that they’ve developed digital literacy” (Cohn, 2019).

The Framework for Technological Fluency is a guiding document for the University of Lethbridge Library and the technology-based opportunities, access, and support that it offers. These activities will be offered to enhance the Library’s delivery of information literacy programming and instruction and is informed by the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (IL Framework). In particular, the Framework for Technological Fluency serves as a foundation to the activities performed by Project Sandbox and the Technological Fluency Working Group.

Background

In the seminal article “Information Literacy as a Liberal Art” (1996) Shapiro and Hughes point out that within an information society, information literacy, particularly as mediated through information communication technology (ICT), is as necessary to an educated citizenry as the other basic liberal arts. As a new liberal art, information literacy (IL) “extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure, and its social, cultural, and even philosophical context and impact…” (Shapiro & Hughes, 1996).

The IL Framework reflects this through its definition of information literacy: “Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning” (ACRL, 2016).

This definition of IL links to the metacognitive or critical self-reflection that is crucial to becoming a more self-directed learner in a rapidly changing information ecosystem. It highlights that being information literate is about understanding and valuing the entire information cycle.

The Framework for Technological Fluency builds on the IL framework, highlighting the points where technology intersects and offers opportunity to enhance the knowledge practices and dispositions provided within each of the six frames.

Metaliteracy

The IL Framework "draws significantly upon the concept of metaliteracy which offers a renewed vision of information literacy as an overarching set of abilities in which students are consumers and creators of information who can participate successfully in collaborative spaces" (ACRL, 2016). Thomas Mackey and Trudi Jacobson, authors of Metaliteracy: Reinventing information literacy to empower learners, are cited in the IL Framework elaborate that “this approach requires an ongoing adaptation to emerging technologies and an understanding of the critical thinking and reflection required to engage in these spaces as producers, collaborators, and distributors” (ACRL, 2016).

Our information ecosystem, including scholarly communication, is closely tied to technology in various forms: from participating in online communities, to accessing research and information in various formats, to the creative exploration of technology both digitally and hands-on.

“Metaliteracy expands the scope of traditional information skills (determine, access, locate, understand, produce, and use information) to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments (collaborate, produce, and share).” Makey & Jacobson, 2014

The term “technological fluency” was decided upon after looking at terminology used by comparable technology focused Library initiatives. Examples of similar terms used were digital fluency (Belshaw, 2012), and digital capabilities (JISC, n.d.). The word technological was ultimately settled upon in order to prevent the framework from excluding the adoption of physically-based technologies. Using words like digital, communication, and information would place limitations on the types of technology that the University of Lethbridge Library could explore.

As for “fluency,” Jennifer Sparrow’s piece “Digital Fluency: Preparing Students to Create Big, Bold Problems” (Sparrow, 2018) highlights the importance of why we should strive for fluency rather than literacy in individuals. Sparrow defines Digital Fluency as “the ability to leverage technology to create new knowledge, new challenges, and new problems and to complement these with critical thinking, complex problem solving, and social intelligence to solve the new challenges” (Sparrow, 2018).

This explanation speaks to us as something inspirational rather than presuming a sort of binary between literate or not literate, capable or not capable. We see fluency as a sliding scale model where one could be farther along in one domain than another. There is continual and ongoing progress, not a definite end or implied mastery.

Context

An environmental scan of technology initiatives existing outside course programming at the University of Lethbridge reveals a strong emphasis on use of technology for entrepreneurial endeavors. Initiatives such as the Agility Innovation Zone offer valuable opportunities to students wishing to explore technology for the purposes of entrepreneurial activities and creation of innovative products and design. Here the Library can offer a uniquely valuable contribution to various campus initiatives. The Library can do this by aiming specifically to address the development of a range of skills, conceptual understandings, and the critical thinking required to be information literate users, consumers, and producers of information today.

With IL as a focus and strategic direction, the Library is ideally situated to lead a technology initiative that addresses this gap on campus, and contributes to a deeper and more meaningful engagement with technology as a vehicle for scholarship and research activities across all disciplines. To both facilitate cross-disciplinary impacts and to offer added value to the existing efforts across campus, this framework is intended as a complement to other initiatives (such as the Agility Innovation Zone) and stakeholders (such as the Teaching Center).

Technological Fluency Framework

The IL Framework highlights six frames which serve as threshold concepts to transformative understanding necessary for engaging fully, and fluently with information today (ACRL, 2016). To illustrate the unique contribution a Library-lead technology initiative will bring to our campus, each of the six frames is explored below with specific relation to technology, activities, and programs.

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

  • “An understanding of this concept enables novice learners to critically examine all evidence—be it a short blog post or a peer-reviewed conference proceeding—and to ask relevant questions about origins, context, and suitability for the current information need” (ACRL, 2016).
  • “Novice learners may need to rely on basic indicators of authority, such as type of publication or author credentials, where experts recognize schools of thought or discipline-specific paradigms” (ACRL, 2016).

Through opportunities supported by the Library, students will be confronted by the concept of authority. Students will learn this through finding technology tutorials, being encouraged to get help from others, and through the formation of their own knowledge. These activities will give students the opportunity to learn how to discern the credibility of sources and how they can prove their own authority. The ability to understand these two concepts will come from using technology and creating projects. If students are not able to find credible sources whether in-person or digitally, they will not be able to successfully meet their goals. Additionally, in supporting the knowledge of their peers, they will have to learn how to demonstrate their own authority.

Information Creation as a Process

  • “Novice learners begin to recognize the significance of the creation process, leading them to increasingly sophisticated choices when matching information products with their information needs” (ACRL, 2016).
  • “Learners who are developing their information literate abilities.... develop, in their own creation processes, an understanding that their choices impact the purposes for which the information product will be used and the message it conveys” (ACRL, 2016).

Through attending workshops, students will learn how to use software and equipment which will give them the ability to convey information. During these workshops, students will have the opportunity to learn about the creation process and what format/medium best serves the information they are trying to communicate. Formats will be able to take the shape of either physical (papers, posters and prototypes) or digital dimensions (websites, videos and images).

Information Has Value

  • “The novice learner may struggle to understand the diverse values of information in an environment where “free” information and related services are plentiful and the concept of intellectual property is first encountered through rules of citation or warnings about plagiarism and copyright law” (ACRL, 2016).

Students will have the opportunity to develop skills to produce knowledge in various formats. To do this efficiently, students will need to access resources they may wish to incorporate into their own work. Through doing this, students will need to understand copyright, fair dealing, creative commons, and the public domain. Using resources that they do not own, will require students to learn how to attribute appropriately. In addition to learning how to attribute resources appropriately, students will see that information has issues regarding its access. This will be conveyed through the act of searching for elements (images, sound files or video files) for their project. Understanding the limits to ethical use of various information elements will illuminate a foundational element of Copyright law – to encourage creation of new/original work.

Research as Inquiry

  • “This process of inquiry extends beyond the academic world to the community at large, and the process of inquiry may focus upon personal, professional, or societal needs” (ACRL, 2016).
  • “Experts recognize the collaborative effort within a discipline to extend the knowledge in that field” (ACRL, 2016).

Through providing students with a breadth of hands-on activities, they will receive the opportunity to inquire into a variety of both digitally and physically-based technology. During these activities, students will be encouraged to interact with the technology and pose questions to the presenter. Through this hands-on process, students will be confronted with the need to inquire into how to use technology and find solutions to their problems.

Scholarship as Conversation

  • “Developing familiarity with the sources of evidence, methods, and modes of discourse in the field assists novice learners to enter the conversation” (ACRL, 2016).
  • “Experts are ... inclined to seek out many perspectives, not merely the ones with which they are familiar. These perspectives might be in their own discipline or profession or may be in other fields” (ACRL, 2016).

As the Library serves all disciplines on campus, it is well positioned to bring people together in ways that facilitate the sharing of different perspectives. While engaging in workshops that aim to develop familiarity with different formats of information via the creation process, there is an opportunity for participants to observe, learn, and provide different perspectives and approaches to the same technological endeavor.
Students will be given the opportunity to publish or present their own vetted works through the Library. This will reinforce the point that scholarly conversations are an ongoing process and that students can be active participants in its creation.

Searching as Strategic Exploration

  • “Learners who are developing their information literate abilities … exhibit mental flexibility and creativity” (ACRL, 2016).
  • “Learners who are developing their information literate abilities … persist in the face of search challenges, and know when they have enough information to complete the information task” (ACRL, 2016).

Library programming and support for Technological Fluency initiatives will only be starting points for students. Instead of learning the ins and outs of software/resources they will be taught how to search effectively to locate the information they will need to continue developing their skills or refining their projects. These initiatives are in line with core goals of the IL Framework to encourage self-directed learning.

Conclusion

The Framework for Technological Fluency will serve as a guiding document for the technological-based opportunities, access, and support offered through the University of Lethbridge Library. This document will inform the direction that technological-based activities take and ensure that they are created in order enhance the Library’s role in information literacy.

References List

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education . In Advancing learning Transforming scholarship: Association of College & Research Libraries: A division of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework

Belshaw, D. (2012). What is 'digital literacy'? A pragmatic investigation. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/3446/

Cohn, J. & Hewitt, R. (2019, April 23). When bringing your own device isn’t enough: Identifying what digital literacy initiatives really need. EducauseReview. https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2019/4/when-bringing-your-own-device-isnt-enough-identifying-what-digital-literacy-initiatives-really-need

Farmer, L. (2019, May 9). The Role of Librarians in Supporting ICT Literacy. Retrieved from Educase: https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2019/5/the-role-of-librarians-in-supporting-ict-literacy

JISC. (n.d). Building digital capabilities: The six elements defined. Retrieved from: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6611/1/JFL0066F_DIGIGAP_MOD_IND_FRAME.PDF

Mackey, T.P. & Jacobson, T. E. (2014). Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners. ALA Neal-Schuman.

Shapiro, J. J. & Hughes, S. K. (1996). Information literacy as a liberal art: Enlightenment proposals for a new curriculum. Sequence, 31 (2). Retrieved from https://www.educause.edu/ir/library/html/erm/31231.html

Sparrow, J. (2018, March 12). Digital Fluency: Preparing Students to Create Big, Bold Problems. Retrieved from Educase: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/3/digital-fluency-preparing-students-to-create-big-bold-problems