You Are Digitally Literate. Until You Aren’t.


You are digitally literate until you realise you aren’t.

You have purchased your first tablet and don’t know how to ‘copy and paste’ text into a document. You have been playing Words with Friends for the last three months without knowing it includes a built-in dictionary. You ignore text messages from friends because you don’t know what all the abbreviations and pictures mean.

You think you are digitally literate. Until you aren’t. You think you are doing your best work. Until you aren’t. How do you know if you are? Who or what do you rely on to make sure you are?

While there will always be ‘just in time’ learning opportunities below, are three ways in which you can assess your level of digital literacy fluency. All tests are free and upon completion suggest a learning plan to enable you to master the topics covered by the test.

  1. The Future Edge Digital Literacy Challenge tests your digital strengths and weaknesses for today’s job market. There are 15 questions covering computer fundamentals, digital etiquette, searching, Word, Excel and digital communication.
  2. Microsoft has a Digital Literacy Certificate that takes approx 30-60 minutes to complete. It consists of 30 questions covering computer basics, productivity programmes, computer security and privacy, and digital lifestyles.
  3. Test Your Digital Literacy Fluency from Library Intelligence assesses your digital literacy against library related competencies. It consists of 24 questions covering social bookmarking, digital communication, Creative Commons, online content curation, personal learning environments, online safety, digital rights and critical thinking.

Why not give one or more a go to see whether you’re a master (or mistress) of digital literacy. Let me know how you go in the comments below.

Knowing Is Not Enough

Did You Know


Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Knowledge and willingness are just the beginning of a quality learning experience. They do not produce learning on their own. If we want to truly learn we must apply and we must do. Anything less and we are just consuming facts without comprehending what is really going on.

Many online learning products reinforce the consumption of information by providing clear concise videos of concepts and how they work in practice but with no opportunity for learners to experiment or incorporate their own experiences. Other online learning courses allow a learner to progress through a course and receive a Certificate of Completion solely by answering multi-choice or True/
False statements. Neither of these methods allow learners to ‘apply and do'; to attain a deeper level of expertise of the subject matter.

Library Intelligence is different. Library Intelligence encourages learners to consume the facts and then asks them to ‘apply and do'; to use higher-order thinking skills to build upon what they have learnt to achieve a deeper level of understanding of digital literacy. Library Intelligence is not just about knowing what digital literacy is, but it is about knowing and applying it to our everyday work as library and information professionals.

Developing self-paced online courses that ‘apply and do’ real world library skills within a 60 minute timeframe requires careful design of the learning experience. Each Library Intelligence course incorporates learning objectives that are linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy to intensify the learner’s level of expertise as much as possible.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is often depicted as a pyramid as shown below.


Bloom’s Taxonomy

Remembering is the lowest level of the taxonomy. As you might expect, this level asks learners to remember something through recall, definition or recitation. Answering True/False statements is one way to test for this level of expertise. If the learner answers the questions correctly they have mastered this level of the taxonomy. A digital literacy example might be ‘Name the 8 elements of Doug Belshaw’s digital literacy model‘.

Understanding tests a learner’s ability to explain ideas or concepts; to put information into their own words. For example ‘Explain in your own words your understanding of the Creative element of digital literacy.’ A learner that answers well demonstrates that they not only remember the information but also understand what it means.

The third level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is Applying. Applying asks the learner to demonstrate what they have learned or to apply the information in a new way. For example ‘Show how you would apply the Creative element of digital literacy by curating a selection of Māori resources.’

Analysing asks the learner to demonstrate their expertise of this level by determining how the parts of a subject relate to one another. For example ‘Show how you have applied each stage of the curation process (Seek, Sense and Share) to arrive at your selected Māori resources.’

Evaluating assesses the learner’s ability to make judgments and can also involve the learner reflecting on their learning. For example ‘Briefly reflect on why you chose to curate these Māori resources over others.’

Creating is the highest level of expertise in Bloom’s Taxonomy. This level involves putting all the previous elements together to create something new or a offer a new point of view. For example ‘Create a document to guide other library and information professionals through the process of curating a selection Māori resources.’

As a learner progresses through each level of the taxonomy they become more active in their learning. They are summarising, consolidating, problem-solving, reflecting, experimenting, creating and innovating. Online learning should not be a spectator sport. Knowing is not enough. We must ‘apply and do’.


Three Links Worthy Of Your Attention


In the last week I’ve found a lot of resources that are really good for library staff wanting to upskill in tech and related areas so I thought I’d share my top three finds with you.

  1. An excellent set of eight modules from the Colorado State Library for library staff to help library members one on one with technology questions. I particularly like how it uses reference interview techniques that we should all be familiar with and reinforces good customer service in general. The technology proficiency checklist is also useful if you want to know how staff measure up.
  2. GCF LearnFree and Techboomers are a couple of really good sites that help people become familiar with the internet and popular websites. You don’t need to sign up and they’re easy to use. Suitable for both library staff and library members.
  3. WebJunction offers free courses for library staff. I’m a fan of the self-paced ones, such as social media or marketing but they also have archived webinars like ebooks and ereaders or advocacy and outreach.

I’d recommend setting aside an hour to explore what these sites have to offer and then consider discussing the most suitable ones at your next performance development review or coaching session.

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