Literacy means a lot more than just reading. It can mean any skill of comprehending, analyzing, applying, and evaluating different types of information in order to function in society. Computer and technology literacy can be one of the most complicated, especially because of how frequently things change. Now with the hot topics of computer-based testing and mlearning, I’ve begun to feel that every time new technology disruptions rock our worlds, any one of us can find ourselves “illiterate” and struggling to understand exactly what we’re looking at.
About six months ago, I was ending my largest long-term contract as an educational consultant. As I pondered my next move, I wondered what it would take to position myself to move from purely local projects to also working on something with national relevance. Because of my interest in technology integration and distance education, I decided to develop an engaged, strategic social media presence. While I had a personal Facebook account, plus a professional blog and eNewsletter, I used them only when I had time between other projects.
Though I consider myself a technology “native,” creating a genuine social media platform was like starting all over again. It has been a real challenge for me! I started my strategy with a recommendation from Constant Contact to post to Twitter three times a day, Facebook once per day, and your blog once per week to engage and grow an audience. I also decided to create a LinkedIn group to try to locally share jobs and opportunities in literacy.
Although I consider myself proactive in finding resources online, I was surprised with the amount of time it took me at the beginning to find and share content. Sharing using multiple accounts led me to try a new range of secondary tools (like HootSuite) just to read & schedule content so it was presented more regularly and in an appropriate format for each network. As I reached out to new people through multiple networks, I then had to regularly check back when people began responding with genuine conversation! Also I was regularly (at first kind of addictively) checking my statistics to see how many visitors, shares, and followers I had across different accounts.
Over time I have more easily integrated this ongoing stream of information input & output into my daily life. Because I have developed genuine relationships & ongoing conversations, I no longer have to dedicate a chunk of 2-3 hours once or twice per week to find & schedule content; I just “check in” with my networks on my smart phone whenever I have some down time. Based on analytics & interest, I have let some elements drop (like the eNewsletter) to focus on the areas that have provided more individualized interaction & depth of content (it turns out I love Twitter! It’s my newspaper now). I have realized that more thoughtful blogging at any pace is much better than cursory content on a schedule. Most people find my blog posts through search engines anyway. In addition, I met my goal of developing an inter-regional & international network with whom I can learn, share, and get involved with exciting projects with national scope. The buzz word for that is a “Personal Learning Network.”
Because technology is constantly changing, and using even familiar technology for a new purpose is like starting over, I think anyone (tech “natives” or not) are now bound for a lifetime of being illiterate over & over again. I found a great blog post by The Technium on Techno Life Skills that everyone needs regardless of the technology they use. My favorite pieces of advice are:
“Often learning a new tool requires unlearning the old one. The habits of using a land line phone don’t work in email or cell phone. The habits of email don’t work in twitter. The habits of twitter don’t work in what is next.
“You will be [a] newbie forever. Get good at the beginner mode, learning new programs, asking dumb questions, making stupid mistakes, soticting [sic] help, and helping others with what you learn (the best way to learn yourself).”
I think we can all plan on being illiterate workers for our whole careers! But as long as we stay curious and collaborative, we can stay connected with each other to learn and unlearn technology together.