Jane Secker is Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City, University of London

Jane Secker

Frames, models and definitions: rethinking information literacy for the digital age

Jane Secker is Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City, University of London which she teaches on the MA in Academic Practice. She was Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor at London School of Economics and Political Science for over 15 years where she advised staff about copyright issues and the online environment. She is Chair of the CILIP Information Literacy Group and a member of the Universities UK Copyright Negotiation and Advisory Committee which negotiates with the Copyright Licensing Agency on the higher education licence. She is also a member of the Copyright Advisory Panel which is a governance group of the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. She is co-author of Copyright and E-learning: a guide for practitioners published by Facet in 2016. Jane is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She has a PhD from the Aberystwyth University and has worked on numerous research projects funded by the British Library, JISC and the University of London.

Frame, models and definitions: rethinking information literacy for the digital age

This keynote is both a practical and strategic view of information literacy from my perspective as a Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City University, London and Chair of the UK’s Information Literacy Group.

I’ll reflect on the experiences I have had since leaving the library profession and moving into the field of educational development, which involves working with faculty to enhance teaching and learning and to develop their curricula. Since taking on this role I have had rich conversations with academic staff about all aspects of information literacy, often under other guises. I’ve recently undertaken a small-scale study to understand their approach to thinking about the related concepts of digital literacy and open practice and I’ll discuss some findings from this research. Faculty express concerns about how to create independent learners in the age where information is abundant, but knowledge is still scarce and privileged. Those who complete my module on the same topics have reflected on the plethora of terms and frameworks which are designed to support them which in fact sometimes leave them further confused. I’ll also draw on a recent chapter I wrote (Secker, 2018) on the trouble that terminology can cause, when we try to collaborate with both academic staff and with colleagues in other areas of learning support.

The second part of my keynote will focus on the efforts of the UK’s Information Literacy Group (ILG) to broaden the definition of information literacy and to try to get the concept recognised outside the library. In many ways there are parallels between the work I do at an institutional level and the efforts of the group to raise awareness of information literacy more broadly. In April 2018 the ILG launched a new definition of information literacy and much of the efforts of the group have been to build links with organisations and people outside of the library sector. For us to achieve true universal information literacy, as Paul Zurkowski first envisaged, (Zurkowski, 1974) I will argue information literacy needs to become an ongoing concern or everyone who works in education, government, the media or who cares about social justice.

I’ll end by considering the challenges and opportunities that collaboration presents whether it is librarians, academics and other professional staff in education or policy makers and other organisations working with those outside the library world. Collaboration is vital for information literacy to become truly embedded into all aspects of formal and informal learning and to achieve the goal of universal information literacy that Zurkowski first envisaged. However, we still have a big task ahead of us to achieve this. I will attempt to consider the lessons I’ve learnt from working in this field for over 15 years, and advocate for a vision of information literacy that extends far beyond the library community. I’ll draw on the work and the framework in developed in 2011 (Secker and Coonan, 2013) to explore how we can rethink information literacy and provide a framework for supporting learning in the digital age.



CILIP Definition of Information Literacy (2018) Available at

Secker, J. (2018). The trouble with terminology: rehabilitating and rethinking ‘Digital Literacy’. In: Reedy, K. and Parker, J. (Eds.), Digital Literacy Unpacked. (pp. 3-16). London: Facet Publishing. ISBN 178330197X Available at:

Secker, J and Coonan, E (2013) Rethinking Information Literacy: a practical framework for supporting teaching. Facet publishing: London.

Zurkowski, P. (1974) The Information Service Environment: Relationships and Priorities. Related Paper No.5. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Available at:

Roger Säljö

Learning in a designed world: information literacy from rock carvings to apps

Roger Säljö, Ph. D., Dr. h. c. mult., specializes in research on learning, interaction and human development in a sociocultural and interdisciplinary perspective. Much of this work relates to the development of symbolic technologies (writing, number systems, computers etc.). He has been a Finland Distinguished Professor of the Academy of Finland , and he is an honorary doctor at the University of Turku and the University of Agder, and honorary professor at the University of Bath. He has been visiting professor at several universities, including Universität Konstanz, University of California San Diego, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, University of Oslo, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, University of Agder, University of Stavanger. He has supervised 50 Ph. D. candidates at six different faculties to their degrees.

Learning in a designed world: information literacy from rock carvings to apps

Human beings have an incredible talent for learning and for converting the insights they make into technologies. Some of these technologies (hammers, knives, bicycles etc.) transform our bodily capacities; they change the way we interact with the world when we repair an object or move between places. Other technologies (numbers, writing systems, texts, calculators) transform our capacities to think, remember, solve problems and communicate with fellow human beings. These symbolic technologies, as the evolutionary psychologist Merlin Donald calls them, play a decisive role for our capacity to learn, to preserve information and, more generally, to think at the individual as well as collective level. And these technologies are restless, they change continuously. In a designed world, our intellectual capacities are dependent on our abilities to productively utilize such external resources in what we do. What we know is no longer exclusively beneath the skin or between our ears.

OB Rekdal

Ole Bjørn Rekdal

Academic ghosts and urban legends in the digital era

Ole Bjørn Rekdal is an anthropologist and professor at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. He has studied how urban legends and myths are born and sometimes get an undeserved life as scientific facts and reliable knowledge. Rekdal’s contributions on the topic include “Academic urban legends,” “Monuments to academic carelessness: The self-fulfilling prophecy of Katherine Frost Bruner,” and “Academic citation practice: A sinking sheep?” A complete list of his articles and chronicles on academic citation practices and use of sources can be found here 

Scientific publications are the last place one would expect to encounter ghosts and urban legends. Despite the strained relationship between such phenomena and scientific ideals of truth and verifiability it is not hard to find examples of what can be called “academic urban legends”: untrue or unverifiable claims and stories which are circulating in scientific publications, sometimes for decades, without being debunked or questioned. The explanation behind the paradox is often a widespread unwillingness or inability to consult primary sources.

The digital revolution has made the task of finding and consulting a wide range of primary sources immensely easier. However, despite the blessings of enormous digital archives and databases, academic urban legends continue to proliferate and ghosts are appearing in new and unexpected forms, such as “ghost references” and “ghost statistics.”

The spread of false knowledge in scientific disguise, sometimes with disastrous consequences, is facilitated by a questionable academic practice that is both time saving and hard or impossible to expose: pretending to have consulted primary sources by copying, or rather plagiarizing, citations from others. 

Tracey Bretag

The role of academic literacies education in promoting academic integrity

Dr Tracey Bretag is an Associate Professor (Higher Education) in the School of Management at the University of South Australia Business School. She teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, while her research focuses on higher education policy and practice, with a particular focus academic integrity. From 2015-2018 she was the Director of the UniSA Business School Office for Academic Integrity.

Associate Professor Bretag has an interdisciplinary background; she holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA – English and History) from James Cook University, an Honours Degree and a Master of Arts (MA) by Research in English Literature from the University of Adelaide, and a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) by research from UniSA.

She is the Founding Editor of the International Journal for Educational Integrity, and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Handbook of Academic Integrity (2016). Associate Professor Bretag has received a number of awards throughout her career, including UniSA Scholarly Teaching and Postgraduate Lecturer of the Year Awards in 2003, Supported Teacher Awards from UniSA from 2005-2009, an Excellence in Teaching Award from UniSA Division of Business in 2010, an ESL Educator of the Year Award by the English as a Second Language Educators (SA) Inc in 2004 and a Certificate of Commendation for Research Excellence from UniSA Business School in 2014 and 2017. Associate Professor Bretag has also received numerous grants from the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching to improve academic integrity across Australian universities and to help prepare students for intercultural learning in Asia.

Associate Professor Bretag has published her research in over 40 refereed academic journal articles and book chapters, and has presented her research at conferences across the globe. She is the former Chair and Founding Member of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Educational Integrity, the former President of the Executive Board to the International Center for Academic Integrity, a former Assessor for the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching, and an Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) Peer Reviewer.

This presentation will provide a synthesis of my research on academic integrity from 2002 to the present. I will make the case for the critical role of academic literacies education in building a culture of academic integrity for both staff and students. Extending the work of Australian and international researchers I have conceptualised academic integrity as a complex, multi-stakeholder responsibility which goes well beyond students plagiarising or cheating. The field has been influenced by large-scale surveys of students’ self-reported cheating in the U.S., and by technology-driven responses to plagiarism in the U.K., and has taken place in a radically altered higher education landscape globally. My research has contextualised academic integrity as a teaching and learning issue, foregrounding the importance of learning, rather than morals. Recent threats to academic integrity, such as contract cheating, have focussed attention on the role of governments, regulatory bodies and institutions to adequately resource teaching and provide critical support for vulnerable student cohorts.