What is information literacy?

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The Oxford Dictionary online (2019) defines literacy as:

  • The ability to read and write
  • Competence or knowledge in a specific area

Before beginning this course I had a very shallow view of literacy and agreed with the Oxford Dictionary of the definition of literacy as being able to read and write. I can also now see that literacy  also combines a competence or knowledge in a specific area and literacy now includes many areas such as:

Digital literacy

Network literacy

ICT literacy

Multimedia literacy


New formats and modes of delivery require users to have different skills but all of the literacy types can work together to create understanding (one of the key concepts in literacy).

To be truly literate a person must be able to understand and make meaning from what they have encountered – whether it be in writing, reading, listening, viewing or speaking (Combes, 2016). They need to be information literate (IL).

Based various definitions given by CILIP (n.d) my own definition of information literacy  is the ability to find and critically evaluate information to use it in an ethical manner to enable the user to effectively participate and positively contribute in a digital/information literate society.

Whilst reading, this quote by Brown and Mathie (1990) jumped out at me ‘Truly literate people are thinkers and learners’. This led me to thinking about the Critical and Creative Thinking skills in the Australian Curriculum and NSW Syllabuses and how important it is to structure these skills into the information search process to allow people to be information literate.

According to Bruce, Edwards & Lupton (2006) people will view information literacy differently depending on their context, for example a student may view IL as finding facts whereas an academic may view it as a set of skills. They propose six frames for viewing IL – Content, competency, learning to learn, personal relevance, social impact and relational. Depending on which frame is being used will impact on what is the focus of learning, content and assessment.

Herring (2007) believes that developing information literacy in schools is one of the main duties of the TL today. But what is the best way to do this? Many believe through an inquiry model and guided Inquiry Design in particular.

Information literacy is a complex issue with many parts, understanding a definition of it is just a start.


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)(n.d). Australian Curriculum: General capabilities. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/

Combes, B. (2016). Information: change and issues. [webinar]. Retrieved from https://connect.csu.edu.au/p46nev0a746/?proto=true

Bruce, C., Edwards, S. & Lupton, M. (2006). Six Frames for Information literacy Education: a conceptual framework for interpreting the relationships between theory and practice. Innovation in teaching and learning in information and computer sciences, 5(1). doi.10.11120/ital.2006.05010002

Brown, H., & Mathie, V. (1990). Inside whole language: a classroom view. Primary English Teaching Association (Australia); Rozelle, N.S.W.

Chartered Institute of Library Information Professionals (CILIP)(n.d.). Definitions and models. Retrieved from https://infolit.org.uk/definitions-models/

Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga , NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University. Retrieved from  https://www-sciencedirect-com.

NSW Education Standards Authority. (NESA) (2017). K–6 syllabuses and resources. Retrieved from https://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/k-6/

Oxford English Dictionary Online (2019). Literacy. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/literacy


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