Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Information Literacy and IT Fluency: Convergences and Divergences

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Information Literacy and IT Fluency: Convergences and Divergences

Article excerpt

Academic librarians are currently challenged by a variety of nomenclature issues, nowhere more evident than in the expanding cluster of terms centered on concepts and processes of accessing, evaluating, and using information. This development is undoubtedly caused by the nature of library and information science itself, which is a soft applied discipline, or one without a prevailing explanatory paradigm, and with an overriding concern for application rather than pure theory. (1) It is also partly caused by the multiplying educational reform agendas connected with critical thinking, resource-based learning, and a variety of pedagogies of engagement, and also by the sometimes overlapping and sometimes diverging cluster of terms centered on technology skills--information technology (IT) fluency, technology literacy, computer literacy, digital literacy, and others. This welter of terminology with converging and diverging meanings can indeed be challenging in professional discourse, particularly because librarians see a greater need than ever to collaborate with other academic professionals and with interest groups and stakeholders beyond their home restitutions.

The two primary terms that have emerged in the United States that address the concepts of accessing, using, and evaluating information are information literacy and IT fluency. The two concepts have distinct lineages that are now converging in program development and curricular applications at some institutions. Information literacy is now understood by most tn the academic library community as an evolving set of abilities focused on defining information needs, searching, evaluating, using, and managing information, and also understanding something of its social and legal implications. This conception of information literacy, developed in the United States, is primarily attribute- and standards-based, and assumes that there are normative and definitive characteristics of information literate students. (2) IT fluency is another normative conception, with requisite knowledge and skills of IT fluent students promulgated by a group of experts from the research and academic computing communities. (3) While these are the concepts used in the United States, other conceptions using the same or similar terms have emerged internationally that provide a broader context for understanding the two United States-based concepts. These other conceptions are either relational and research-based (the Bruce tradition originating in Australia), or developmental in orientation-the Seven Pillars model created by the Society of College, National, and University Libraries (SCONUL) group in the United Kingdom. (4) The potential for each of these traditions to compensate or correct for deficiencies in the others is only beginning to be understood in the international arena. In the United States, only recently have the sociocuhural dimensions of information literacy, as an educational reform agenda, begun to be explored. (5) This article explores three diverging concepts and terms--information literacy, IT fluency, information fluency--and examines how their divergences and convergences are manifested in such emergent agendas as ICT assessment and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

During the late 1980s and throughout most of the 1990s, information literacy was the preferred term in the academic library community in the United States to describe a programmatic, curriculum-infused, institutional approach to research and information competency. During this time, academic librarians were challenged to consider the full implications of information literacy as a catalyst for change. A new agenda that aims to reform the curriculum includes questions of how to make sure that information literacy is not just library-sponsored, but includes many stakeholders who claim ownership. (6) Equally important new agendas include the idea that learning, not just teaching or pedagogy, should be the overarching concern in program development; that the concept must include a major focus on the digital, networked environment and that the focus on the individual student as the locus of learning should be transformed to considering the social dimensions of learning. …

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