Cornell University defines digital literacy as “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet” and there are many others such as Futurelab’s “the ‘savvyness’ that allows young people to participate meaningfully and safely as digital technology becomes ever more pervasive in society.” As these definitions make clear, digital literacy has become an essential skill set and educators must ensure students develop competencies in this area.

Whilst the need for digital literacy skills is becoming better understood, it is still sometimes thought to be something that can just sit alongside the curriculum where students learn a set of skills and then it is ‘done’. This is not the case. As Dr Jane Secker discusses in her webinar: An Introduction to Digital Literacy, digital literacy is continuously evolving and therefore learning also needs to continue.

Collaboration between librarians and teaching staff is key therefore for ensuring students have access to the resources and digital literacy skills they need. These skills need to be taught within a subject context; digital literacy for science will be different from digital literacy for the arts and humanities. It is therefore important for librarians to involve teachers of different disciplines and make sure that digital literacy is integrated into their curricula.

Integrating these essential skills into the curricula will mean that students will learn what is appropriate to the subjects they are studying, they will better appreciate their relevance and importance, and are less likely to become disengaged or see digital literacy as an optional extra.

Teachers may be worried about the time and effort needed to explore the topic of digital literacy fully or they may still believe in the myth of “digital natives” (ie that young people have the innate ability to use the internet) and think that there is nothing they can teach them that they don’t know. Plenty of research has shown this is not true (see our Padlet for examples.)

By working with teaching staff, librarians will be able to share their expertise and knowledge and support teachers in embedding the necessary skills into the classroom. In turn introducing teachers and students to a range of new formats of information and helping them appreciate the school librarian’s full potential to support independent research with current, high quality materials and resources.

Successful collaboration will lead to more teachers being inspired to participate in future partnership as more reluctant teachers see colleagues and students demonstrating enthusiasm for the collaborative process.

JCS’s conference From Digital Literacy to Independent Learning: challenges and opportunities for librarians and teachers will bring together experts in the field of digital literacy, school and university librarians, school leaders, and providers of authoritative sources to share their knowledge and good practice in supporting the challenges and opportunities for school librarians and teachers in an increasingly complex and digitised world. Find out more and book your place here.