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Digital Literacy FLC (Spring 2021)

Resources from the spring 2021 Digital Literacy Faculty Learning Community at Rowan University.

Digital Literacy Faculty Learning Community: Background

FLC Formation

The Digital Literacy Faculty Learning Community (FLC) at Rowan University was formed in spring 2021. Group members have shared and explored teaching approaches and resources intended to help students further develop digital literacy skills and to deepen their understandings of digital environments and their engagement in those spaces. This resource serves as record of the Digital Literacy FLC's meetings and as a starting point for further work in digital literacy at Rowan. The guide pages include: 

  • the core materials and discussion prompts used in the theme-based monthly meetings,
  • themes and ideas that emerged from our discussions,
  • related teaching ideas and activities, and
  • additional resources.

Why Digital Literacy Now?

In this moment of heightened political polarization, when people are especially prone to separate one another into in-groups and out-groups, digital environments have become highly contentious and complex spaces. This frosty climate is entangled with phenomena like the online spread of misinformation, filter bubbles, and bias in search algorithms, all of which deeply influence public and academic discourse. In light of this, many people educators, students, and everyday citizens want to become more savvy about how to evaluate digital content and platforms and how to apply this understanding to engage more critically with online information and communities. This FLC will gather interested Rowan faculty to explore recent scholarship on teaching web literacy; to discuss, share and develop techniques that have worked for their disciplines; and to share them with colleagues.


Our FLC explored the following:

  • Identifying and unpacking assumptions about digital literacy and teaching it (See “Investigating assumptions” section below.)
  • Approaches to assessing student learning in relation to digital literacy
  • Equity and the digital divide:

    • Raising the Rowan community’s awareness of social and economic inequities that contribute to the digital divide and the effects that they have on people’s everyday lives. 

    • With increased awareness of these inequities, actively seeking ways to cultivate more critical thought and engagement with digital information and environments

Shared Understandings

Shared understandings and many of the assumptions that surfaced during our conversations are outlined below.

  • The pervasiveness, impact and frequent imperceptibility of digital information systems:
    The ubiquity of digital information and systems in everyday life and the profound  influence that these have on society, culture, communities, and individual and collective thinking and actions, often not self-evident/in ways that we often do not recognize   

  • Bringing a mindset of critical inquiry to investigating the advantages, limitations and potential dangers of the digital:
    The challenge of at once taking advantage of the attributes of digital environments and information systems, while remaining inquisitive about and responsive to their potential limitations 

  • (Re)contextualizing digital information and sources:
    The need (and challenge) within online environments to (re)contextualize sources and information that has often been removed from its original rhetorical context in order to critically evaluate information

  • Equity and the digital divide:
    The pandemic has made more apparent the inequities that arise when students do not have equal or adequate access to technology, time, and/or spaces for learning and for academic work. Digital literacy is a cornerstone of engaging as global citizens in democracy.

  • The importance of digital literacy to everyday life and society:
    The value of learning to do Internet research and to critically evaluate online sources, activities that will continue to be essential outside of academic settings and in everyday life

Investigating Assumptions

  • Source quality and value: Challenging the false dichotomy of good vs. bad sources and the misconception of library search tools and scholarly sources as eliminating the need for critical source evaluation
    • The privileging of certain voices (e.g., academic sources) and the marginalization of others (e.g., indigenous knowledge, personal experience), and the continued need for a greater diversity of voices

    • The false dichotomy of “good” and “bad” sources (which is often synonymous with “scholarly” and “unscholarly” sources)

    • Recognizing that not all false or misleading information is the same or equally sinister in intent. Distinguishing between categories like misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation is an important part of critically evaluating information and understanding it in relationship to a larger information landscape. 

  • The myth of technological neutrality: Recognizing that bias is embedded in information systems in ways that are often rendered invisible, and developing habits and practices that help us to examine assumptions and biases both within ourselves and in the systems, structures, and information sources with which we engage 

  • Traditional methods of source evaluation: Unlearning the methods for source evaluation from the past (checklists including CRAAP) and asking more targeted questions to understand the contexts of sources.
    The close reading and analysis associated with critical thinking is not always useful for identifying for false or misleading information. Because it can be difficult to identify inaccurate information if you don’t have deep knowledge of a subject area, it’s often more effective to see what others who have more knowledge of a topic or have done more in-depth investigation into the topic. 

Spring 2021 FLC Participants

Andrea Baer (Facilitator), Rowan Libraries

Dan Kipnis (Facilitator), Rowan Libraries

David Cheatham, Public Relations & Advertising

Tiffany DeRewal, Writing Arts

Melissa Tuckman, English

Karen Brager, Communication Studies

Nicole Cesare, Writing Arts

Michael Fisher, Writing Arts

Kristine Lafferty, Writing Arts

Amanda Haruch, Writing Arts

Jason Luther, Writing Arts

Ted Howell, Writing Arts

Jennifer Nicholson, Marketing & Business Information Systems

Tim Donaldson, Writing Arts

Jaclyn Partyka, Writing Arts

Karyn Tappe, Psychology

Emily Blanck, History

Yuanmei (Elly) Qu, Management and Entrepreneurship

Roberta Reavey, Writing Arts

Jude Miller, Writing Arts

Renee Watson, Marketing and Business Information Systems

Cherita Harrell, Writing Arts