Related literacies

Information literacy has its roots in critical literacy, traditional library and information seeking skills and academic research study skills. Since the term was coined in 1974 by Paul Zurkowski, information literacy has influenced the development of many other literacies and skills sets, and in turn has been influenced by the evolution of the information society and digital age.

Information literacy is one of many ‘new literacies’ (as defined in Lankshear, C. and Knobel, M., 2006) which includes digital literacy and media literacy. Together, these literacies and skills sets are gaining recognition as being vital for living, learning and working in the twenty-first century.

The following terms have gained recognition in recent years:

Digital literacy

Digital literacy is defined by Jisc as “the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society” (Jisc, 2014). Through the use of their seven strands model, critical thinking and creativity is applied to the wide range of interaction we each have with and through digital technologies. Information literacy is one part of the seven strands of digital literacy. Jisc’s Developing Digital Literacies website gives the full definition, model and case studies.

The British Computer Society (BCS) have the Digital Literacy for Life programme which is concerned with is concerned with exploring methods of improving three key areas with digital literacy: employability, education and society.

FutureLab produced the Digital literacy across the curriculum handbook which aimed primarily at the primary and secondary education sectors.

Media literacy

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) define media literacy on their dedicated website as including the following elements:

  • understanding the role and functions of media in democratic societies
  • understanding the condition under which media can fulfil their functions;
  • critically evaluating media content;
  • engaging with media for self-expression and democratic participation;
  • reviewing skills (including ICTs skills) needed to produce user-generated content.

The critical evaluation and review skills directly link with information literacy skills sets, and in a wider context, UNESCO offer a definition and model of Media and Information Literacy.

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) has developed an media literacy strategy and will work with stakeholders to focus on the present and future media literacy needs of all members of society. Ofcom defines media literacy as ‘the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts’.


In their 2014 book, Metaliteracy: Reinventing information literacy to empower learners, Mackey and Jacobson argue that information literacy should be re-defined as a ‘metaliteracy’ that encompasses elements of digital and media literacies, as well as a range of others. In doing this, individuals can learn to ‘produce, collaborate and share’ information, as well as understand the more tradition skills of information literacy.

Web literacy

As defined by the Mozilla Foundation, web literacy is concerned with the “skills and competencies needed for reading, writing, and participating on the Web” (Mozilla, 2015).

The Mozilla Foundation has a website dedicated to the skills of web literacyThe skills are divided into three strands:

  • ‘Explore’ – reading the web
  • ‘Build’ – writing the web
  • ‘Connect’ – participating on the web.

Information literacy directly links with the ‘Explore’ strand.