Informational Literacy

Informational Literacy

D. Casacuberta (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch163
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Abstract

Digital divide is a metaphorical division which separates those citizens who can use new technologies to their own benefit from those who cannot. Digital divide is one of the biggest dangers to consolidation of a harmonic development of the information society. Historically, projects are mostly centered on helping people that, either for economical or geographical reasons, are not able to have a computer or do not have the possibility to connect that computer to the Internet. Without any doubt, part of the solution resides in creating new telecommunication structures, but that is not the whole solution. There is more in e-inclusion than giving away computers and putting out more fiberoptics. Digital divide is a multidimensional phenomenon which includes lots of different drawbacks. A great many of them are mental in essence, so they can be avoided through education. The theoretical basis for this approach is to a great degree inspired by the work of the economist Amartya Sen. In Sen (2001) there is a distinction between functionings and capacities. Functionings are elements of technical knowledge towards making something specific, for example, the technical details of sending an e-mail. On the other side, capacities are those pieces of knowledge which include action and social recognition, for example, to arrange a political demonstration using e-mail facilities. The approach against digital divide which does not stop in the infrastructure, does not go any further than the functionings. That is, learning projects which teach the “four pillars” of computer use: Web browser, e-mail client, word processor, and digital spreadsheet. This is by no means wrong, but it is clearly not enough. Any approach towards diminishing the digital divide must take the theoretical approach described by Sen and work toward capacities, not just functionings. Digital literacy should not only be about functionings, but about capacities. The final aim of a literacy and ICT campaign should be to give empowerment to the users, not only the technical knowledge of how to send e-mail to buy tickets through a Web site. By the time this article was written (2005) there were no clear politics going beyond the functioning issues. There are good policies in the US and the EU about “critical thinking”, for example, but almost no policies when the application of such curricula is to be used. National politics, in different European countries as well as in the U.S., is mostly centered in teaching the so-called “four pillars”: basic communication and ofimatic issues. Most countries develop such courses with no further worries in segmenting the target, so everyone (the elderly, women, migrants, and young people) get the same basic courses with the same professors. An important exception are the pilot projects co-financed by the European Union from programs such as e-learning, Leonardo, or e-content, which do insist on the need of segmenting the targets and find novel ways to approach them. One example is using mobile phones instead of computers to reach teenagers better. Another interesting concept, which may seem to become a major trend in the EU in the following years, is the development of the e-porfolio: a way in which students collect all the relevant information and experience for work and are able to present it using this digital format. Unfortunately, there are not clear policies yet, and the efforts towards informational literacy are in the hands of either individual researchers or social workers who want to go beyond those four pillars. For example, such a basic element as an informational literacy test has not even been implemented on either a national or European level. Some American universities have created a quite complete one, but it is neither standardized nor nationally distributed. The same can be told about e-portfolios today. Different universities in the EU and the U.S. have their own system and there is not such a thing as a common framework on e-portfolios which everyone can use.

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