My first semester of graduate school is coming to a close and it’s bittersweet. I am happy to have successfully completed my first two classes, but I’m always sad when things come to an end…even classes. I enjoyed my Information Technology class more than I thought I would — and I learned more than I thought I could. I now understand HTML enough to have built a successful website, can use simple Unix commands, have (with my lovely group members) conducted a usability study on an existing website, worked with my group to build a database (and I can actually understand it!), and I made my first online video in Snagit. I explained how to use a database! I can still barely believe that. I learned so much this semester and my IT fluency has grown in leaps and bounds. I don’t even look at websites the same way as I did when I began this class — things I never paid attention to (because the Internet is just magic?) impress me now. I was also very lucky to have been assigned a great group of ladies to work with on both of the group projects. Not only did we work really well together to turn out some great work, but I learned from them as well. I am extremely thankful that our professor broke down the steps to everything in the modules so that I could follow it — this is a class that had the potential to be completely overwhelming for me. I’m also really happy that I could rely on my cohorts by asking questions and reading posts on our Facebook page — using social media technology for our technology class! Overall, I feel this class was a success and I am leaving it with a greatly increased understanding of and appreciation for information technology. As I said before in an earlier post, I know IT fluency is a work in progress — but I now have better tools for increasing that progress.
My IT fluency has changed a great deal since the last post. I’ve hand-tagged a website and I’ve learned simple commands in Unix. Things that seemed out of my reach, technologically, really don’t seem so impossible now. I know that to maintain the skills I’ve been learning, I’ll have to keep using them — which is fine because it turns out that HTML is more fun than scary. It can definitely be frustrating, but the parts that can be frustrating are also what makes it fun. It’s like a puzzle. I feel very proud of myself when I manage to untangle an issue with my tagging. I like that it really is just another language, like people kept telling me.
The website I analyzed was themoonlitroad.com — Halloween is coming up and this is a particularly good source of creepy stories and such.
The first part I looked at was contrast. I like the yellow strip of background against the dark wooded background around the edges. It’s also a good choice on their part to use black font against the yellow — as is the white font against brown, and white and yellow font against the dark background. The letters in the beginning of each word in the lists are capitalized, which helps them to stand out. Capitalizing the titles of the stories is also a good way to draw attention to them, as well as being grammatically correct. I also like the variety of colors in the pictures used with the stories because it breaks up the monotony in scrolling down.
The second thing I analyzed was repetition. The repeated use of the same fonts and the same yellow strip of background against the dark woods keep the website looking cohesive no matter what page you click to. The navigation bar and categories list are also in the same place on every page you click to, which makes them very easy to locate and navigate. I like that the test for the links is always brown on the yellow background. I like being able to tell what I can click on.
The third step in analyzing this website was alignment. I like that the logo on the top of the page is centered. The titles are all aligned to the left and the text uses word wrap (I think that’s what you call it?). It looks very clean and well defined. I also really like the way the page flows with the featured stories and pictures going down the center of the page. It’s easy to keep scrolling through.
Proximity was the last piece I looked at. The placement of the navigation bar off to the left, away from the stories and such, makes it easy to find. The same can be said for the categories list. I like the spacing between stories and pictures — it sets them apart from each other. The consistent spacing also helps with the flow.
There are a few other things I noticed about this website that don’t fit into analyzing with CRAP. One is that while there is background sound on this page, it can be turned off. I think it’s good to have that option. I also like that the ads are small and not overwhelming — and don’t pop up. It’s nice that clicking a link takes you right to that page and doesn’t open a new tab or window. Overall, I really like this website and think it was made well.
My IT fluency is a work in progress — I imagine IT fluency is a work in progress for everyone, given the nature of IT. While I have definitely learned some HTML (which is pretty amazing), I wouldn’t say I feel infinitely more fluent. I am more confident and my confidence grows along with my skill set. The feeling that I can handle this, that it is doable, is wonderful. This is my first exposure to working with HTML and my first time blogging! I’d thought about blogging, but couldn’t imagine what I would write about. Actually keeping this blog and working on HTML modules is really helping me. I feel like I’m not where I want to be, but I am getting there.
My 6-year-old nephew is a constant source of amazement to my parents, especially when it comes to his IT literacy. He has been making phone calls since he was old enough to get ahold of a phone (which was interesting for everyone involved since he wasn’t big on the talking part), he can operate the television and DVD player, he can navigate a smartphone (especially iTunes), he has his own iPad (complete with apps), and he’s awfully good at operating the computer. He has his own email address, but never actually uses it — he’s still learning to read. We regularly catch him on the family computer, searching sites like Ruby Lane for “beautiful jewelry” or watching videos on YouTube. He has even taught himself how to put items in a cart and print off pictures of the items he really, really wants. There are printouts of antique lockets and such floating all over the house. The only reason these items aren’t coming directly to the house is that he hasn’t figured out how to pay for them or enter addresses. (We have passwords on EVERYTHING so we don’t get all kinds of unexpected treasures showing up on the doorstep.) It’s impressive how fast he learns things — although it makes sense when you think about how he was born into a life that involved all this technology. His age probably helps because he doesn’t have any trepidation about learning new things and is willing to figure out just about anything by trial and error. Where my mother (a digital immigrant) is intimidated by the constantly evolving world of IT, my nephew (a digital native) sees everything as a new opportunity.
At 63, my mother is a digital immigrant. Her first encounter with using technology was her job as a long distance telephone operator with Northwestern Bell in 1971. Besides connecting and disconnecting a cable, she really didn’t have much exposure to information technology; she didn’t even have an electric typewriter. The first computer she had any exposure to was something her mother-in-law bought for the grandkids to play games on in 1984 – and that was limited to turning it on and off. She and my father did buy a giant cell phone in 1995, which “came in a zip-up case that looked like a Bible.” She was a stay-at-home mom and used a landline phone and handwritten letters as her primary forms of communication.
These days, Mom has adapted to become fairly IT literate. She has an iPhone and can text. She is aware that her phone has the capabilities to do all kinds of things, but she doesn’t take advantage of most of these because she doesn’t know how or is intimidated. For example, after I overheard her yelling at (and then apologizing to) Siri, we decided to turn that function off. She has apps on her phone for the news, weather, email, bank, and such — but she worries about the safety of information being transmitted through her phone and generally avoids it. As for the computer, she is more comfortable. She uses search engines (Google), social networking (Facebook), online shopping, and has set up the majority of her bills to be paid automatically online. She still uses her AOL account for email, but she can’t send attachments without enlisting one of her children to do it. Mom avoided getting online or learning to use the computer for a long time, but gradually her desire to keep in touch with people and the ease of shopping online convinced her to ease into the world of IT. She has only been using the computer and smartphone for a few years now; the technology is still overwhelming. My mother only uses the computer for activities involving the internet; she has no idea how to use Microsoft programs or Skype or any of the other apps. She has the conceptual knowledge, but not the skills or desire to learn them.
I’m new to blogging and this blog will be all about my diving into the world of information technology. As an online graduate student with the University of Alabama, I am definitely computer literate — but by no means fluent. I hope to expand my skills and comfort level while sharing the experience with whoever happens to be reading this. The world of information technology will (hopefully) become less and less intimidating as the weeks go by! At the moment, my comfort level is pretty general — I can use or figure out how to use most of the websites and apps I come across. I absolutely do not know how to create my own. My overall goal for the next few months (and beyond) is to reach a level of IT fluency that enables me to create basic web pages and feel at ease doing so. It should be exciting!