Information worlds and multi-literacies - report from ECIL 2018

Emma Coonan

Category: Centre for Innovation in Higher Education

1 November 2018

The European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL) 2018 was held in September 2018 in the amazing location of Oulu, Finland.

I was thrilled to be invited to participate in this conference. As a senior scholar and editor of an international academic journal, I gave a presentation on academic writing and publishing in the conference’s inaugural forum for doctoral students, and also acted as a mentor and workshop leader in the discussions about the doctoral experience that followed.

It was a real joy to meet and share experiences of research and writing with the PhD students in the workshop. I was hugely impressed with their work and how they presented it. I always enjoy talking about writing and publishing, and try as far as I can to expose the ‘messiness’ of these processes and describe strategies for dealing with their complexity. View the slides from my presentation.

ECIL lasts for four days and has a packed programme. There were four outstanding keynote talks exploring how information is used, created, shared, interpreted and valued in a range of ‘real world’ information contexts. These included sociocultural aspects of interaction and collaborative problem-solving in computer games; how people diagnosed with a life-changing or terminal disease use online forums for information sharing and mutual support; and the ‘information worlds’ of Syrian refugees in the harsh conditions of Za’atari Refugee Camp.

Clearly, information literacy is deeply intertwined with lifelong learning and with issues of both criticality and empathy. How we interpret and use information is a key part of the choices we make in our everyday lives, how we construct our reality and our values, and the impact we have on the world and others in it. So I was delighted that the fourth keynote directly addressed innovative pedagogic practice and research. Kristina Kumpulainen, Professor of Education at the University of Helsinki (@krikumpulainen) gave a magnificent presentation on teaching and learning design in Finnish primary education. She focused particularly on the concept of multiliteracies, inviting us to appreciate that ‘information’ can be graphic, symbolic, verbal and gestural, as well as digital and textual.

Kumpulainen’s Monilukutaitoa Optiaan Ilolla (MOI) Project views multiliteracy as a transversal competency that runs through the whole curriculum – ie it’s not a discrete subject that you teach on a Monday at 10am! The project also creates learning activities and objects to support multiliteracies at primary school level. I was excited to discover that it has a strongly empathic and imaginative component, as well as a social and environmental dimension. Children as young as six engage in active and playful learning around core concepts including ‘Taking care of oneself and managing daily life’ and ‘Exploring my environment’. Teachers are given the curricular and creative freedom to design learning opportunities that work in the local context, to help young learners begin a lifelong journey of exploring and enacting human agency, identity and citizenship.

Excellent live-blogged write-ups of each keynote can be found on the Information Literacy weblog:

Prof Franz Mayra on gamification| Prof Peter Bath on trust and empathy in online health forums | Prof Karen Fisher on information literacy in refugee camps | Kristiina Kumpulainen on multiliteracies in early childhood education

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