Digital Literacy by Paul Gilster John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Your brain is the 'killer app' when it comes to harnessing information on the Internet. Powerful search engines only serve up the food, but digital literacy helps you discern the right 'cookie.' But seriously, when was the last time you actually validated information you received from the Web? We tend to take information wholesale off the Net because the curious thing about words - whether it is published in a book or on the Internet - is that it takes on an aura of authenticity. In that sense, the Internet is like a power drill - very useful yet dangerous if used without precaution. Digital Literacy by Paul Gilster strives to equip the Internet researcher with content-evaluation and navigational skills to exploit the Net's many virtual libraries and information kiosks. Content Evaluation As a research tool, nothing beats the Internet with its accessibility to information sources worldwide and its collaborative feature that allows like-minded individuals to share information. But information is a two-edged sword and in the excitement of a multimedia environment, it is easy to check your reservations at the door. Gilster's chapter on content evaluation is instrumental in teaching Internet researchers and browsers how to discern the source of the information by explaining what a web address means. In short, what the .com or .edu at the end of a URL (Universal Resource Locator) mean. In addition, Digital Literacy, delivers some nuggets of advice on how to steer search engines in the right direction instead of getting tossed around by the surf of information. Critical Thinking On the down side, Digital Literacy, with its good intentions to teach information management to the Internet researcher is about a hundred pages too long. Frankly I wasn't interested in Gilster's long narrative of his typical day on the Net. Call me impatient, but a self-improvement or informational book should do just that - inform. And as concisely as possible. In a time when prose is more or less restricted to novels whereas information on the Net is presented in a non-linear hyperlinked format, it seems contradictory to read through a 250-page book to learn how to retrieve information from the Net effectively. Anecdotes are essential, but complete documentation of one's work day is a waste of a reader's time, especially one who is anxious to improve his or her proficiency on the Web. Digital Literacy is an easy read for those who would appreciate additional background information on the nature and the future of digital literacy on the Net. But for individuals intent on beefing up their net-savvy, you should go straight for the core four chapters of the book.
Digital Literacy Paul Gilster, the author of Digital Literacy, Finding it on the Net, and The Web Navigator, started off his career studying and teaching Medieval English and history. Gilster made a career change and became a commercial aviator before he found an interest in computers. This interest grew after he began exploring this new medium and decided that it would be an excellent source for his writings. The Internet is an enormous collection of data with millions of pages of information. Many users of the Internet feel overwhelmed by this because they are not digitally literate. Gilster describes digital literacy as the "ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers." He shows that despite this overwhelming amount of data it is possible to find the information that you are looking for and confirm that it is from a reliable source. The reader is able to learn how to use the Internet to their advantage not only through software applications, but also through logical thought processes. The book tends to be for those readers who are somewhat familiar with how the Internet works. Readers who have not yet tried to explore the internet on their own may find that the Gilster provides a lot of information that would not be fully understood with out first experiencing it first hand. For those who have Internet experience, chapters on searching the Internet, content evaluation and hyperlinks provide valuable skills for evaluating and interpreting information found on the Internet. The skills that I have picked up from this book have already proven to be valuable in researching and surfing the Internet for entertainment. The main fault that I found with Gilster's Digital Literacy is that for an informative instruction style book he tended to be long winded and stray off into tangents in parts of the book. This was very evident in the section of the book called "An Internet Day." Gilster takes the reader through a day of Internet surfing. Some things were for entertainment and others for research, but the messages he conveyed in this section could have been done just as well with out the ramblings and stray thoughts of a man surfing the Internet. Over all I felt the book was very well written and contains invaluable information for Internet users. I would recommend Digital Literacy for anyone who spends time on the Internet. Although the book is not directly to the point, Gilster's ideas are very clear, and user friendly. We are living in a world that is changing very rapidly, in the most part do to the growth of the internet, those who are digitally illiterate will be left behind. Gilster, Paul. Digital Literacy. New York: Wiley, 1997.