Do You Speak Emoji?


You’ve probably used the smiley face emoticon :) in text messages, on Facebook and maybe even email. Emoticons use images and characters to express an emotion in a text-based medium.  Emoticons are like emotional punctuation – they provide an emotional nuance or human element to text-based communication and help the reader to understand your message.

Emojis on the other hand, are a sophisticated extension of emoticons. If emoticons convey emotion, emojis use images to convey ideas or concepts. For example you could use an image of an alarm clock (⏰) , train (🚇) and office building (🏢) to send a message stating that it’s “time to go to work.” Emojis are used because they take less time to type and use less characters.

Emoji is the new lingua franca of digital communication. Emojis are now part of the unicode standard to ensure consistency across platforms and devices. According to the BBC emoji is the fastest growing language in the UK and their use is becoming more common in mainstream communication. Chevrolet went so far as to write a press release entirely in emoji and Penguin have released emoji-versions of Shakespeare.

If you’re interested in brushing up on your emoji fluency there are thousands of apps to help you translate English to Emoji and an extensive list of emoji meanings can also be found in the Emojipedia.


What Happened To The Dinosaurs?


Search engines are ubiquitous and we often use them without thinking about how they work and with little regard to the quality and display of a search engine’s results.

Perhaps it’s time to change.

When you ask Google ‘what happened to the dinosaurs’ this is what appears at the top of the results.

Google dinosaur results

Google has also had other recent ‘mishaps’. Searching for the racial slur “N***** house” in Google Maps sent people to the White House, Barack Obama’s residence. In another instance Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, appeared in image search results for “Top 10 criminals“.

Antimedia asks “is it appropriate for Google, a search engine that children and adults alike depend on, to pass out answers like this?” Frankly I don’t think Google cares. But I think we as librarians should. We should be evaluating search engines with the same rigour we evaluate other information and websites, and we should be showing our communities and our students how to do the same.

If you are interested in improving your knowledge and skills in evaluating search engines try The Search Engine CRAP Test.


Digital Rights: Is trolling a valid form of expression?


Do you know where you stand when it comes to digital rights?

Is trolling a valid form of expression?

Should people be able to track your mobile phone?

Should prisoners have access to the web?

The web turned 25 last year. The inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee, saw it as an opportunity to spark a discussion of the web we want and to crowdsource a Magna Carta, a bill of rights for the web.

This year, as part of its celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, The British Library joined the discussion and created an excellent set of videos (like the ones shown above) to use as a springboard for a digital rights debate and to encourage students to contribute to a Magna Carta of the digital age.

Today the British Library unveiled the Top 10 clauses people would like to see in a Magna Carta of the digital age.

  1. The Web we want will not let companies pay to control it, and not let governments restrict our right to information
  2. The Web we want will allow freedom of speech
  3. The Web we want will be free from government censors in all countries
  4. The Web we want will not allow any kind of government censorship
  5. The Web we want will be available for all those who wish to use it
  6. The Web we want will be free from censorship and mass surveillance
  7. The Web we want will allow equal access to knowledge, information and current news worldwide
  8. The Web we want will have freedom of speech
  9. The Web we want will not be censored by the government
  10. The Web we want will not sell our personal information and preferences for money, and will make it clearer if the company/Website intends to do so

What would be on your list for a Magna Carta of digital rights?

Digital Literacy Has 8 Essential Elements

Belshaw Elements

Adapted from Belshaw, D. (2014).The Essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from

WARNING: Lavish use of parentheses follow. :)

As might be expected most digital literacy models have a school (such as New Zealand’s Netsafe’s digital citizenship model) or higher education bias (where JISC’s seven digital literacies is arguably the gold standard).

I however prefer Doug Belshaw’s digital literacy model (shown above) because it separates digital literacy (Belshaw calls them digital literacies, but I prefer to use digital literacy as an umbrella term) into components that are meaningful for everyone, including librarians.

Belshaw’s model provides a holistic approach to digital literacy where knowing how to use tech is just one of the 8 elements (cognitive). The model is broad enough that the elements can be applied to any library situation and role. It is also descriptive rather than prescriptive making it a suitable learning framework for improving the digital literacy fluency of both digital novices and confident digital learners (thanks for suggesting these terms Beth and Lisa!).

I’ve included a super brief description of each element, along with a few examples, below.

Cultural: how to behave

Understanding the culture (history, language, customs and values etc) of the internet and digital environments by:

  • Knowing how to behave online; from netiquette to protection and privacy.
  • Recognising the difference between personal and professional use.
  • Understanding how internet culture is expressed and transmitted through phenomena such as memes, emojis and animated gifs.
  • Being able to seamlessly adjust to the different social environments of various applications.
  • Understanding how online environments have changed the meaning of words such as expertise, publishing and sharing.

Cognitive: how to do

The Cognitive element incorporates what we know of as computer literacy or IT skills with an understanding of the key concepts.

  • Having the ability to use a range of devices, software platforms and interfaces.
  • Recognising common features across digital tools such as navigation menus, settings, and profiles.
  • Understanding concepts such as tagging, hashtags, and sharing.

Constructive: how to use

The Constructive element involves knowing what it means to ‘construct’ something in a digital environment; how content can be appropriated, reused and remixed.

  • Knowing how to responsibly use and build upon someone else’s work.
  • Respecting copyright and understanding the concepts of remix and reuse.
  • Being familiar with the various Creative Commons’ licences.

Communicative: how to communicate

The Communicative element is about as the name suggests, how to communicate in digital environments. For example:

  • Knowing the purpose of various online tools and how they are different or similar to each other.
  • Being familiar with the communication norms and expectations of various online tools.
  • Understanding what identity, sharing, influence and trust mean in digital spaces.

Confident: how to belong

In order participate confidently online we need to feel as if we belong. This involves:

  • Understanding and capitalising upon the ways in which the online world differs from the offline world.
  • Reflecting on one’s learning in digital spaces.
  • Being part of an online community.

Creative: how to make

The Creative element refers to creating new things which add value where the focus is more on the value created than the act of creating something new. For example:

  • Learning how to do things in new ways using online tools and environments.
  • Imaginatively and critically thinking about how we create and share knowledge using digital technologies.
  • Knowing how to curate digital content to create value for readers.

Critical: how to evaluate

The Critical element is probably the element that is most familiar to those of us working in the library and information profession as it most closely relates to both information literacy and the research process.

  • Using reasoning skills to question, analyse, scrutinise and evaluate digital content, tools and applications.
  • Knowing how to search effectively.
  • Being able to distinguish credible sources from less credible ones.

Civic: how to participate

The Civic element refers to individuals having the knowledge and ability to use digital environments to self-organise; to be part of a movement bigger than themselves. For example:

  • Understanding one’s digital rights and responsibilities.
  • Participating in social movements or the democratic process online.
  • Preparing both ourselves and others to participate fully in society.

In the image below you’ll see I’ve added a bit more context by summarising each element in 3 words.

Belshaw Elements and three words

Each element described in three words. Adapted from Belshaw, D. (2014).The Essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from

In the next blog post I’ll attempt to match these elements to a core library competency.


Belshaw, D. (2014).The Essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from


7 Techniques To Reduce Digital Literacy Anxiety


Having an open mind and a commitment to lifelong learning is in my view one of the most difficult aspects to overcome when attempting to improve the digital literacy fluency of library staff.

I know dozens of library staff who have had the opportunities, skills and practice to advance their digital literacy, yet fail on the final hurdle because of their mindset. Changing the way we do things is difficult because we have to let go of what we know and accept something new. We fear that this new thing won’t be as good or as useful as what we currently do. Change takes time and for some of us it takes longer to get to grips with than for others.

So how can we ensure any digital learning opportunities reduce the friction that change brings with it? I believe a mindset that is reluctant to change can largely be overcome by designing learning opportunities that quickly puts learners ‘in the zone’ or a state of flow.


Flow is defined as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter…”  (Anderson, 2011. p. 162).  Flow results when the challenge is equal to a person’s ability. If learning opportunities are too easy, boredom results. If they are too challenging, people become overwhelmed.

If digital literacy learning was designed to minimise both the anxiety and boredom of learners then it is easier to create an open mindset and become a critical, informed, expert user of digital technologies.

You might think this is easier said than done but based on my experience training hundreds of library staff in many aspects of digital literacy, the following 7 techniques will help reduce the anxiety and boredom of digital literacy learners.

  1. Make it as easy as possible for learners to focus on learning by eliminating as many environmental concerns as you can. Anxieties are anxieties and sometimes they aren’t related to the training being offered. This could range from providing information on nearby parking in a face-to-face world or clear navigation and technical support in an online space.
  2. Ensure digital literacy learning is relevant to the learner (not the learner’s manager or organisation). This can best be achieved by the teacher either knowing the learner well or having a similar background or understanding to the learner and as a result they are able to provide the context that the learner needs to frame and scaffold their digital literacy learning. In-house training by peers and on the job learning are two methods that take advantage of this technique.
  3. Incorporate digital literacy activities or exercises that allows each learner to demonstrate their learning within their own context, experiences and abilities. Reflective exercises are a great example as they allow the learner to mesh what they know with what they are learning – to make sense of it (The reflective learning process, n.d.).
  4. Set clear and measurable digital literacy learning objectives and make them known to learners. With clear objectives the learner will know what they will learn and what they are expected to do. They are able to assess the suitability and relevance of the learning opportunity before committing to it.
  5. Only include content that enables learners to achieve the stated digital literacy learning objectives. If learners are required to sift (or sit) through irrelevant content not only will they find it difficult to recognise and pay attention to the relevant bits but they can also easily become overwhelmed and shut down.
  6. Tell, show, do, apply. Tell the learner what they need to know in a context they can understand. Show them how this information can be applied by demonstrating an example. Give the learner the opportunity to practice what you have taught them. Provide an opportunity for the learner to apply (or plan how they will apply) what they have learned in their own environment (Gardner, 2013).
  7. Find and share the joy in digital literacy learning.  Digital literacy learners have often felt frustrated because they couldn’t get a piece of technology to work or ‘dumb’ because they didn’t know all the answers to assist a library user. Show them what successful learning looks like. Ignite their curiosity through hands-on discovery and experience. Give learners the confidence to work a solution out for themselves.

What techniques do you use to reduce digital literacy anxiety?




Digital Literacy Is A Process Of Development


When you learn a new language you need to learn all the components of that language. With practice you will be able to read, write, and speak in that language. After more hard work and practice you may begin to think in that language. Just as learning a new language is a process of development, so too is digital literacy.

That process of development looks like this (JISC, 2014).
Process of Development Email

At the bottom of the pyramid is Access – “opportunities to experience and explore relevant digital technologies” (Guggi, 2012). This is the fundamental building block of digital literacy and can be associated with the words ‘I have..’, for example ‘I have access to email’.

I know many libraries (or the IT department) block staff access to certain tools, browsers, apps or websites for security purposes but I wonder how many realise that they are also denying staff the opportunity to learn and thrive in a digital economy.

Once Access has been achieved, the next level of the pyramid is Skills – “opportunities to develop expertise in using relevant digital technologies” (Guggi, 2012). This level can be associated with the words ‘I can…’, for example ‘I can use email’.

After Skills comes Practices – the “opportunities to practice digital skills in a ‘real world’ context” (Guggi, 2012). The Practices level can be associated with the words ‘I do…’, for example ‘I do use email’.

And the top most level is Identity – where using a tool or application is part of how you live and work in a digital society. This level can be associated with the words ‘I am…’, for example ‘I am a regular email user’.

When you first became aware of email, think about how long it took you to progress through each of these stages.

I have access to email.
I can use email.
I do use email.
I am a regular email user.

The pace of learning is different for everyone and just like learning a new language not everyone will want to, or need to, reach the top of the pyramid.

In my next post I’ll share my views on the importance of having the right mindset to successful digital literacy learning.

Guggi, N. (2012, October 12). Digital literacies for student employability: spotlight on work placements [Web log message]. Retrieved from

JISC. (2014, December 16). Developing digital literacies. Retrieved 2 June 2015, from



What Is Digital Literacy?


Digital literacy is a slippery concept. Mostly I think we subconsciously know what digital literacy means but when we try to explain it, it sounds big and scary and hard.

According to Blanchett (2013) digital literacy is the “capabilities, aptitudes and attitudes an individual needs to thrive in a digital economy and society.” But what does that mean exactly? How can we make digital literacy meaningful for those of us who work in libraries?

To make sense of digital literacy I think it is useful to consider its relationship to two concepts we are already familiar with – literacy and information literacy. The diagram below shows how I think they are connected to each other.

Digital Literacy and Information Literacy

You can see that Literacy includes both Information Literacy and Digital Literacy. Literacy also includes many other literacies that aren’t shown in the diagram such as media literacy and financial literacy.

An information literate person is able to “recognise when information is needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate and use effectively the information needed” (Bundy, 2004).

A digitally literate person has the “capabilities, aptitudes and attitudes an individual needs to thrive in a digital economy and society” (Blanchett, 2013).

The overlap between information literacy and digital literacy refers to information literacy using digital resources and tools. But as the diagram indicates, digital literacy is more than this because there are aspects of digital literacy that aren’t strictly considered information literacy such as online identities, privacy and communication norms.

What do you think? Do you agree with the relationship between digital literacy, literacy and information literacy? Do you have a different view of digital literacy?Let me know by adding your thoughts as a comment below.

In my next post I’ll share my thoughts on digital literacy as a process of development.

Blanchett, H. (2013, March 12). Current issues and approaches in developing digital literacy – JISC webinar, 12 Feb 2013 [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Bundy, A. (Ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand information literacy framework: principles, standards and practice (2nd ed., p. 3) Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy. Retrieved from