Supporting digital literacy and 21st century learning through the school library

The School Library Association of Victoria conference “It’s a digital world,” held recently in Melbourne, was a good opportunity to reflect on the digital environment that is shaping our personal, work and social lives and to ask, What are the implications for us as educators? What are the imperatives for new literacies, including digital literacy and 21st century skills? How can international frameworks can guide the development of digital literacy in our schools? And how can digital devices and tools enrich the learning environment to support the development of skills, attitudes and understandings students need to be successful, effective citizens of the 21st century?
 I had the opportunity to attend this conference and present the keynote address. The conference was opened by Hon. James Merlino,  Victorian Minister for Education and Deputy Premier. It was fascinating to hear of the Minister’s vision for education and innovation in Victoria.
This was followed by a presentation by Mr Marco DiCesare, Principal of Caroline Chisholm Catholic College and SLAV School Leader of the Year 2014. Marco demonstrated his strong belief in the value school libraries and talked about his role in the revitalization of libraries in two schools he has led. Both speakers were inspirational and set a great tone for the conference, asserting the important place of school libraries in education.
My presentation was “Digital literacy, 21st century skills and information fluency.” My goal was to provide an overview of current international research, documentation and trends regarding digital literacy, and offer some insight into our practice at AIS.
I began with a look at our students today, the characteristics, attitudes and understandings of the digital generation, and international studies that add to our own observations.
A key point was the imperatives this drives for the development of digital literacy and 21st century skills in our schools.
I referenced some international frameworks for 21st century learning and digital literacy.
I then spoke about the AIS libraries initiative – framework for 21st century skills and information fluency. There was also some discussion of the Student Research Guide that accompanies the framework, and a look at some digital tools that can support 21st century learning. I closed with some consideration of further implications, including assessment and reporting of digital literacy, and the broader implications for our (teacher librarian) profession.
I also had the opportunity to lead a workshop, “Supporting inquiry and digital literacy through the library.” This was intended as a guide to participants who wish to develop a (online) resource for their school/library which supports the inquiry process and digital literacy of their students. It focused on the process, and I provided a lot of online support material that participants could use: clarifying purpose; considering framework/structure; platform options; tools for students; advocacy. During the workshop there was a lot of time provided to talk, and to look and suggested resources online.
There was opportunity for me to learn from other practitioners in two other concurrent workshop sessions. I heard about Joy Burlak’s evidence-based project to teach digital literacy to Year 7 at Sunbury Downs Secondary College. Later Wilma Kurvink showed the renovation of library spaces at Wesley College to meet the needs of 21st century learners: zones for collaborating, storytelling, sharing, creating, reflecting and learning.
The closing library design panel reinforced many of the ideas presented by Wilma, each panelist giving their particular context for library renewal.
This was a stimulating and exciting conference. The digital environment we now work in has redefined the role of the teacher librarian. It calls for a new skillset and expertise. How does it shape the way we work with teachers, students, curriculum leaders? This dialogue is taking place in school library associations around the world, and it’s a continuing conversation we need to have.

Our AIS framework, research guide, and other resources, can be found at

Presentations and workshop notes will be accessible on the SLAV website

Linda Twitchett

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