Guerrilla Instruction for a Digital World

Published on March 29, 2018

Erin Johnson, Library Assistant, shares information about copyright and fair dealing with Natalie Playford

Erin Johnson shares information about copyright and fair dealing.

Are your passwords easy to guess? What does Facebook know about you that it can sell to advertisers? Are you allowed to use copyrighted materials in your presentations? These are some of the questions Western Libraries is asking students at pop-up literacy workshops.

Three Western Libraries staff, Lillian Rigling, Erin Johnson, and Maddison Goldhawk, are spearheading a digital literacies outreach initiative offering informal sessions across Western's campus. So far, they've led four different workshops on password security, digital privacy, corporate surveillance, copyright rules, and information privilege, which is the idea that access to online information, such as Western Libraries journals, e-books, and databases, is a privilege that not all users have.

The team uses games and online tools to share tips on how to strengthen passwords, protect privacy, and spot fake news. They opted for instruction in high-traffic public spaces, rather than the classroom.

"Technological, media, and data literacies are difficult to incorporate into typical in-class library instruction," says Johnson. "Students who don't actively seek out this information may not have an opportunity to develop these skills. We wanted to create short-form, light-touch programming because it's an accessible and non-intimidating way for students to be actively involved in digital literacy topics."

At Western Libraries, we're invested in improving the 21st-century literacy of our users, recognizing that these skills are necessary for an increasingly digital future. This initiative is one of many to advance our recently developed Information Literacy Learning Outcomes, an essential base of knowledge each Western student should acquire to evaluate, use, and create information in a digital age.

With new sessions in the works, the team hopes to continue to establish Western Libraries as the go-to resource for information about copyright, online privacy, and media literacy. For those looking to improve their own skills, the team suggests becoming a more informed user of technology.

"Understand what's happening in the background," Johnson advises. "Look at what data is being collected and what powers are at play."