During one of those lunches when the conversation is animated and the topics roam freely, we settled in on the state of digital literacy in the workplace for a bit.
We agreed…surprisingly still amazingly poor. Yet at the same time, digital literacy is critical in life and in every kind of job and organization.
Just to be clear, digital literacy is not "knowing" MS Word and Excel or how to “do” social media. It is a set of skills that allows people to operate effectively in digital environments. This includes, among other things:
• accessing, organizing and interpreting digital media;
• reproducing and manipulating digital media and data;
• evaluating and synthesizing information and knowledge across digital media and platforms.
We need these skills to do basic things in our lives today, like shop, sell and get news.
So onward. Bright the next morning my news reader brings me a story titled “Literacy level of recruits now a major concern for media, report finds” from the U.K.'s Guardian.
The upshot: employers are finding it harder and harder to find enough digitally literate employees - largely because those that are digitally literate are immediately snatched up by the creative media and computer gaming industries.
Gail Rebuck, CEO of Random House Group, is quoted in the story: “The industry needs a workforce capable of combining traditional skills with a new digital and technical capability underpinned by a renewed emphasis on creativity.”
Do not think for one moment, the need of which she speaks is limited to the publishing industry.
The gap between the skills industry needs to remain competitive and those that individuals actually have is just scary. As a trainer and consultant, I live it everyday.
So, what do we do about it?
I’ve got all the “must dos” and “must knows” right here in my “save the world” bookmarks – but they feel a bit like chest pounding, so let’s talk concrete.
Stop waiting and take the initiative to get digitally literate. Do not wait until the educational system catches up – and your employer isn’t going to train you. No one is going to demand you do it. They’ll simply lay you off, or find someone else, or sideline you or ignore you.
Here are three things you can do now. These will not turn you into any kind of digital media geek, guru or virtuoso, but they do encompass three basic skills the digitally literate posses.
1.Devote a little time each week to exploring the Web – discover at least three new sites a week.
This helps you learn to learn in digital environments. There is no skill more important than honing your curiosity and learning how to learn. Things change too way fast to rely on formal education structures, so you are going to be required to learn by exploring.
- Stumbleupon.com or StumbleVideo – these sites do the work for you by showing you all kinds of sites or video based on your interests - without feeling overwhelming.
- Neat New Stuff I Found on the Web This Week. This list is compiled by Marylaine Block, former librarian, present-day writer and speaker. A vast array of interest areas.
- Springwise – all kinds of new business ideas – many of them “real world” but it almost always links to an interesting website or resource.
Besides the information the site overtly presents – answer these three questions about the site:
- Who is behind it?
- Why did they choose to put up this site (how is it benefiting them)?
- What about it connects visitors to the content?
You need to know how to create and manipulate all kinds of content. Even if you aren’t going to be doing it for a living, you will be hiring, working with or managing people who do. The work of the organization requires this kind of content. Oh, and your customers, employees, partners all expect you to be offering this kind of content.
- Your local university extension or community college is a logical first stop to find a class.
- Knight Digital Media Center at Berkeley has some GREAT and free online tutorials. Even though their aim is teaching journalists, these are simple, perfect tutorials for general knowledge about creating and handling digital media.
- Check out Lynda.com for short, targeted online classes on all kinds of software and applications.
- Apple Retail Stores free workshops. Even if you aren’t a “mac person” just sitting in will teach you wonderful things about digital media.
Just extend what you are doing in life, play or work to include these new skills. Trust me, once you know how to manipulate digital media you’ll find many useful ways to digitize lots of things in your life.
What’s happening in social networks is changing the way we approach work tasks and knowledge sharing. Understand the dynamics of connecting, “following” people and sharing, and you’ve got a basic handle on Web 2.0 and what’s coming from it.
Choose a social network that suits a particular interest of yours. Because Facebook and LinkedIn are so large, these are good choices as they have a lot of diversity in content and people - but, a social shopping site, a photo-sharing site or a niche network for travelers or grandparents is equally as important. Find one by using Google or Bing, type in your interest and add the words “social network” to it.
Watch what people are doing there – understanding their behaviors is what you are after. As you are exploring – answer:
- What is the common theme or thing that everyone here shares? Look beyond the obvious – yes people share photos on photo-sharing sites, but what are they really sharing: travel, experiences, parenting or jobs or ?
- How do people find each other – or the thing they are sharing?
- How is the sharing accomplished?
Feel free to count this as one of your digital literacy lessons this week, but off with you now!