Wednesday, 11 November 2015

My Own Digital Literacy Experience

Think about your own experience as a learner / teacher / educational manager. How much do you rely on the Internet and digital devices for accessing information and for communication? What kind of skills do you need in order to use the internet and computers effectively and safely? How did you / do you learn these skills? 
I rely completely on digital devices for accessing information and communication. In recent years I have gradually reduced the number of different devices and methods I used to find a workflow that runs smoothly and doesn't allow things to fall between the cracks. For me a key part of digital literacy is the decision making process of which messages and pieces of information require attention (and when, and how).

I have found my mobile phone to be one of the biggest productivity drains on my time so voice communication tends to be daily calls to a few key people to keep in touch, but I have to screen calls very carefully to blank out sales people and avoid constant diversions. I no longer use voicemail instead asking people to text me or email me.

My phone is however important to allow me to triage incoming messages - responding to a few from the onscreen keyboard, or deferring them to a later time (the ability to just 'park' an email until the evening or a few hours time is really useful).  I get a lot of items that are more alerts than messages to me so I can simply view them on screen and forget them. In an ideal world almost every message that doesn't require me to do something or write something I will view on my phone.

My family and friends almost exclusively use text messages to keep in touch with me - very little work-related things come to me that way, which helps keep separation and allow me to focus.

I also use my phone to keep track of tasks to complete, news (I subscribe to a good number of RSS feeds, all work-related) and less and less frequently, Twitter. I have several other tools on my phone I use but rely on less:
  • We use an internal social network based on Yammer and I do occasionally post to it from my phone, but generally when I am using my phone, I'm not working in that area.
  • I use my camera to capture things (flip charts, diagrams etc) to pick up on later - especially if I am visiting a site or at a conference.
  • Helpdesk, I have an app that allows me to view and respond to IT support tickets on our helpdesk - if I am personally involved in an issue I can refer to or respond to it while on the move.
  • Google Drive allows me to view and use my documents (I keep most things there) and refer to them in a meeting or situation when a laptop would be inappropriate.
Everything else I now do through my laptop - previously I've tried tablets but always ended up carrying both.

My laptop is my main tool for communication:
  • Email, anything other than two or three word answers.
  • Yammer - rather than send emails to multiple recipients I try to use Yammer, but habits die hard and most of my colleagues still use email almost exclusively.
  • External social networking is something I sometimes do on Twitter, but time doesn't really allow much scope for that.
  • I use Hangouts for online conferences to reduce travel, but nothing like as much as I should.
My laptop is also my main organisational tool - as well as being where I work on my calendar, I also drag emails into a reminders app, or type in tasks directly, to keep short term priorities clear.

For productivity I have gradually moved to using Google Drive on my laptop. Most documents I work on are shared with colleagues so instead of worrying about version control we can collaborate that way.

The skills I use have changed over time. The main ones that concern me from minute to minute are ones to do with decision making, prioritisation and keeping focus. I need to ensure I keep the main thing the main thing and avoid being distracted too much. In particular:
  • Setting up rules to divert traffic to where I want to deal with it.
  • Rapidly filtering information to seek out anything that cannot wait.
  • Creating pockets of time to focus and process all the stuff I parked when I was busy!
A few years ago I would have highlighted the ability to design, to pull together media to make presentations and documents, which is still an area I perform well in. I'm finding with time that I am less concerned with small details in putting together content and more on the 'main message' I am trying to convey - that is probably more to do with confidence than skill.

I've learned skills by iteration, by trial and error and making mistakes. There is nothing like a nightmare week where you achieve very little for making you better at managing your workflow!

I also learn by imitation. When I see an idea for how to handle something or do something better I get a lot of satisfaction from working out how to adapt and adopt it myself.

Inspiration/ imitation comes from being with clever people, following a small number of blogs and twitter feeds and Google+ people. I tend to find joining 'communities' (like for example "Chromebook Teachers" low value because of the large proportion of repetitive or formulaic content).

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