Friday, December 17, 2004

Information Literacy – The Challenge of the Digital Age. This is invited keynote address at the Third National Information Literacy Conference, Canberra, December 1997, organised by the University of South Australia Library in association with the ALIA Information Literacy Taskforce. It was delivered by Barbara Lepani.

From the site:

In a print society, literacy has been the ability to read and write, and through this to be a fully participating member of a democratic society. The need to acquire this literacy led to the development of a compulsory public education system and a network of local municipal public libraries. This society has been synonymous with formal education as a "front-end" investment from the kindergarten to year 12, and then some form of higher education or vocational training.

In the global knowledge society and its technological infrastructure of computers and multimedia society, education is lifelong and literacy is being extended beyond reading print and writing with a pen.

We are all becoming learners as knowledge navigators, learning just-in-time and at the place of our choice, through a technological infrastructure which includes computer, email, Internet and telephone - and soon assisted by our electronic research assistants, the Intelligent Agent. This new paradigm is forcing a redesign of our education and training systems on a global scale. We are also developing a different view of ourselves.

In the knowledge society with its informational mode of production, we all become researchers. However the language of this research is not just print, whether that be paper-based or electronic. It also includes complex visual language by which the media industry interprets our world to us - whether through news, info-entertainment, documentaries, music videos (MTV) or story-telling. As the new generation of children have the neural connectivity of their brains shaped by the intense visual and auditory stimulation of television, music and computer games, our current problem with behaviour and learning in children, particularly at puberty, may be linked to a different pattern of neural connectivity in the brains of the digital generation, as well as wider cultural transformations of identity associated with the changing workplace. Our traditional system of school organisation, designed for the print literacy and linear assumptions of the 19th-20th century, may be a form of mental cruelty.

Information is no longer a scarce resource. We are awash in information and every day its volume grows exponentially. The critical new skill is not just how to get information relevant to a task, but how to do this within time constraints, and how to extract meaning from all the "noise" of competing voices. The knowledge economy creates value by going up the hierarchy of knowledge. This demands a progression from simple cognition to meta-cognition to epistemic cognition, and finally to wisdom cognition.

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