Dr Bitso speaks at UJ’s Online Seminar: The Changing Role of Teacher Librarians and Digital Literacy amidst Covid-19

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The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has presented immense opportunities, but there is no doubt it has also presented daunting challenges as we navigate ourselves through the digital dispensation.

This is according to Dr Connie Bitso, Director of Libraries who spoke during an online seminar hosted by the University of Johannesburg on 7 and 8 September.

Dr Bitso was among seven speakers, including Professor Jonathan Jansen - adistinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch who also delivered the keynote address.

Dr Bitso’s presentation was titled: Digital Literacy amidst Covid-19 and the changing role of Teacher Librarians: opportunities and challenges. She gave an overview on the aspects that enhance and impede digital literacy.

In the library context, being digitally literate has presented more opportunities and opened several channels in regards to discovering and engaging information during this period.

“Libraries have been offering virtual learning environments and electronic information.  However, amidst Covd-19, we had to swiftly move to 100% of what we offered,” she said.

Speaking about the impact of Covid-19 in the education sector, Dr Bisto said the pandemic has no doubt magnified and exacerbated the inequalities that exist in our education system.

“There has always been education inequalities which translate into digital exclusion and ultimately digital illiteracy. We know our government is committed to free universal education, primarily in the basic education sector. But now we are left wondering whether  during Covid-19,  when confronted with glaring disparities and inequalities, the commitment and the move towards a just society is feasible or not”, said Dr Bitso.

She cited the following as Opportunities

  • Open science, open sources, open data and open scholarship.
  • Self-paced interactive learning.
  • Social networks and collaborations.
  • Variety of teaching methods and materials.
  • Wealth of resources and tools for information creation, consumption and presentation.
  • Exposure to visuals, diagrams, charts, tables and maps.
  • Advanced software engineering with API (application programming interface) and search algorithms.
  • Covid-19 compelling working remotely and encouraging online engagements.

Challenges

  • Disconnection, exclusion and marginalisation in the digital revolution and its potential dividends.
  • Cyber security
  • Dwindling budgets
  • Covid-19 (While it presented enormous opportunities it also presented challenges)
  • Managing the overload and noise from pop-ups, adverts etc.
  • Identifying yourself, others and pertinent resources.
  • Keeping up and remaining relevant.

In wrapping-up her presentation she urged participants to think of how school libraries or multimedia centres will thrive within the current basic education funding landscape and the potential impacting conditions.

“Over and above, technology, imperative literacies and the future of libraries depend on the ubiquity of personal skills, agility, problem-solving attitudes and creativity,” she concluded.

 

Dr Connie Bitso is the Director of University of Fort Hare (UFH) Libraries. Prior to this position, she was a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She taught Information Architecture and Metadata; Knowledge Organisation & Management; Resource Description & Communication; and Teaching & Learning for LIS Professionals.  She leverages on her knowledge of these subjects matter to lead UFH Libraries' strategy in digitisation, digital scholarship, research data management and semantic web.

She graduated with a PhD in Information Science from the University of Pretoria and has a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from UCT. Having started her career as a high school teacher, she appreciates schooling systems and understands the critical role of school libraries as well as the importance of inculcating information literacy and cognate literacies at basic education. She has grassroots experience of university-school partnerships, which is evident in her publications and community engagements.

 

By Aretha Linden