5 Ways to Grow Your Digital Fluency

The basics.

December 4, 2014
Ways to grow your student affairs technology fluency

If you've ever tried to define "technology," you know that it can be daunting. A conversation about increasing digital fluency can lead to an epic list of considerations. There are so many different aspects to consider when it comes to things like technology, hardware, software, apps, social media, digital identity, and information systems. When we try to look at the big picture, it can sometimes stop us in our tracks and keep us from picking up new skills to add to our digital toolkit. In an effort to move the technology competency needle towards a more fluent space, I present the following 5 ideas for increasing your skills when it comes to technology:

Hardware: I know that this isn't necessarily about your professional fluency with technology, but having the right hardware to do your job is essential to building your digital competency. Budgeting for new technology is important for student affairs divisions. If your computer is slower than you are, how will you ever maximize your potential? Or better yet, maybe it's time to change over to an iPad or a more mobile option.

Operating Systems: If we are being completely honest, we could always improve our knowledge of the OS on our computer. Whether you're on a Mac or a PC, the operating system is the foundation for everything that you do. Placing files in folders as a means of being more efficient, knowing where downloads "go," and using keyboard shortcuts are all simple ways that you can use to shave time from your day. I know, this sounds remedial. However, there are countless individuals who work on computers every single day who could use a higher level of fluency with the OS on their machines. We need to cultivate organizational cultures that seek to build everyone up in terms of their skills.

Campus Systems: Student information systems, campus apps, learning management systems, online course databases, and a variety of systems are in use on a daily basis at schools. Most of the time, the onus of fluency is on the student. Students enter the learning environment and have a huge list of things that they need to learn in order to be successful and that's even before they step into a formal classroom. Having familiarity with the most-used systems at your campus will make you a better practitioner. If you are working directly with students, you'll be able to model use of technology systems and answer questions with ease. Even if your day-to-day work doesn't involve direct contact with students, you can still be better at coming up with holistic strategies for success if you have a high-level of fluency with your school's technologies.

Social Media: Digital identity is part of the fabric of higher education. Practitioners have been using social media to communicate and engage with students for several years and the number of sites/apps is always evolving. Additionally, social media channels provide fantastic avenues for professional development, learning, and networking.

Software and Apps: Most people know how to use MS Office and that's a good thing. However, it would be even better if most people in a student affairs division were savvy with the entire set of features within Google's suite of services. Now, I realize that some schools are "Google schools" and are already doing a lot with Google's tools. For other campuses, Google's suite of tools can provide amazing amounts of functionality and efficiency. Hangouts and Drive provide a plethora of functions that can be used for collaborative creative efforts, virtual academic advising, and live-streaming of events. Additionally, it is so helpful for folks to have a working knowledge of photo and video editing. And, if you get stuck doing something, just go ahead and Google your question. I guarantee that someone has posted a solution, technique, or process. Lastly, if you don't have administrative access to install applications, please try to acquire it.

Bonus: If you're looking for a digital brain to store your thoughts, bookmarks, ideas, and more, I would suggest taking a look at Evernote. It's a wonderful solution for creating additional mental bandwidth that's housed in the cloud. Using Evernote, you can collect all sorts of information that you can share with students and colleagues.

What would you add to this list?


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