Mobile Information Literacy: Building Digital and Information Literacy Skills for Mobile-first and Mobile-centric Populations through Public Libraries
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For billions of people coming online around the world - many in Africa - mobile phones (and increasingly smartphones) is their point of entry to the internet. This is true in both developed and developing countries. However, the user experience on a smartphone is very different from that on a PC or a feature phone. The different affordances and limitations of each device shape how people interact with information, and even one’s conceptualization of the internet itself. Mobile-specific tendencies include: interacting through apps versus a browser, coming online via a handful of “walled garden” applications, information consumption rather than production, and a focus on social activities over more “serious” uses. In order to take advantage of the benefits that information and communication technologies (ICTs) offer, one must have the skills and knowledge to do so. Digital and information literacy skills are critical to fully realize the potential of technologies. Yet the research and practice around digital and information literacy has largely failed to account for these differences. A review of information and digital literacy frameworks, for instance, illustrates a PC-centric orientation. One consequence is a dearth of digital literacy courses and other learning programs developed for smartphone-centric users. This has many important implications for how people get online, including how they access and experience the internet, how much they produce and consume information, and more. Mobile Information Literacy - a combination of digital, internet, and information literacies for smartphone-first and smartphone-centric populations - fills a critical gap between access alone and realization of the benefits mobile technologies and applications can have. Through a process of reviewing existing PC-based digital and information literacy frameworks and curricula and identifying the specific needs and information behavior differences among mobile-first and mobile-centric users, we have created Mobile Information Literacy (MIL) curricula and trainings for various geographies and audiences, taking into account local contexts and conditions. This paper details why MIL is important and needed, describes the process of developing and implementing the curriculum, explains how it is currently being adapted for public libraries in another setting, and concludes with next steps for Mobile Information Literacy. The paper also highlights lessons we have learned along the way and changes we have made as we adapt the curriculum.
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