My dad hates the computer. He is the first one to admit that he has no clue how to work one and has zero desire to learn. I give him credit for being honest and for being truly indifferent toward technology. My mom, on the other hand, uses the computer every day for work and has a new laptop for personal use. She recently joined the land of Facebook, and I love being able to send her silly memes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes throughout the day. As far as my digital literacy goes, I think I am in the midst of a personal digital renaissance, which began here at the University of Wyoming a few years ago.
I am the type of girl who has never even hooked up a DVD player. How lame is that? I hate the phone and just got my first cell phone last year. (That one really shocks the masses.) Most people cannot imagine life without a cell phone, but I prefer to communicate via email, Facebook or texting. What baffles me is the thought of trying to write a research paper before the age of the Internet…eek! No Google or Wikipedia? Kids don’t understand how lucky they are to be growing up and receiving an education in this technological era.
Research back then – even ten years ago – was more time consuming. Students and researchers still spend hours in libraries, but we are not physically searching through the card catalogue and writing down Dewey Decimal numbers on scrap paper with tiny pencils. Primary sources mainly consisted of newspapers, magazines, journals, and good old-fashioned conversations.
When I was younger, I remember reading books in the giant carpeted bathtub in the children’s section at the local library. I was quite the bookworm and my mom was attending college so we would frequent the library together. We would sit and search through microfiche films or lounge on the floor surrounded by ancient, musty-smelling, leather-bound encyclopedias that seem like relics in today’s digital world.
I have never thought of myself as technologically savvy. My fiancé is very knowledgeable in this area and spoils me. For example, he takes the time to periodically update music on my iPod, whereas I might listen to the same cd in the car stereo for months. Years ago, I signed up for a MySpace account, but my fiancé is the one who designed my site and typed up the HTML. I was clueless.
However in 2010 I decided to return to college to pursue a journalism degree with an emphasis in online journalism. I don’t necessarily want to work for a newspaper, but I would love to write about human rights, women’s rights, politics, social media or contribute to an online website or magazine such as Jezebel, Upworthy or The Onion. Luckily for me, I got hooked up with an Apple MacBook for use in school, and the world was forever changed.
Simply enrolling in classes and navigating WyoWeb was a real challenge for me initially. Each course has additional websites to utilize as well, such as E-Companion or Wyo-Sakai. These programs and rules change constantly too. As soon as you think you’ve figured something out, software is updated and you have to relearn. Just keeping up with constant fixes or new software can be difficult and time-consuming. I can hear my father saying, “Don’t fix it if it’s not broke!”
I have been lucky enough to enroll in amazing classes at UW such as Online Journalism, Digital Storytelling, Photojournalism and Advanced New Media, just to name a few of my favorites. I have learned, but not yet mastered, all kinds of skills like recording and editing audio and video, organizing format and layout styles, photo editing, creating slideshows and sound slideshows, converting files, coding in HTML and CSS, creating images and sequences in Flash, blogging, and even a little comic book storyboarding.
I think the most beneficial advice that I ever received regarding digital literacy was from one of my favorite UW professors, Kristen Landreville. “GET INVOLVED!” That’s it. That’s what she said.
Her simple words didn’t seem so significant at the time, but now I fully understand their meaning. There is so much information available and so many programs to utilize that information that you need to want to know how to do something. So I now have accounts in everything ranging from Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Flickr, Vimeo, Pinterest, Yahoo, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, SoundCloud, StumbleUpon, etc. I have one notebook dedicated to keeping all my accounts, user names and passwords documented. I maintain my own blog and have purchased a domain name to help promote my additional portfolio website. It is a total work in progress, but check it out at tiffanyjune.com.
Acquiring the latest technologies can be hassle-full and extremely costly. I believe I paid a discounted price of $300.00 for Adobe Suite package. For my academic career alone, I’ve had to pay for new operating systems, software, two electronic clickers for classes, a new camera, and a digital audio recorder. Within the last few years, I purchased a new HDTV, several DVD players, an iPad, a Kindle, an XBOX 360 and a PS3 complete with a multitude of additional accessories. My fiancé’s interests in technology are responsible for other household tech items we have obtained such as fancy new modems with high-speed internet, cable and two Wi-Fi accounts, plus upgraded cell phones, a digital telescope, turntables and digital deejay equipment like speakers, mixers and stuff.
I was hired on as a Lab Assistant in the Academic Support Unit of University of Wyoming’s Information Technology Department in 2010. As an L.A., I am responsible for maintaining student computer labs on campus. This job has enabled me to become more comfortable with technology in general. I was trained thoroughly and required to pass an entrance aptitude exam, both of which boosted my confidence. I’m constantly exposed to new opportunities to acquire more computer knowledge through seminars, training classes and by getting to know more computer nerds.
The job itself is easy enough; I maintain the lab, push in chairs, fill the printers with paper and more or less give icy stares to people talking loudly on their cell phones, all with the added bonus of doing my homework while on the clock.
I think many students are unaware of just how awesome our IT department is here on campus. We assist users with computer issues, program issues and/or anything else that may come up when students use the school machines. If you need assistance or advice with personal equipment like laptops or phones, please come in to see the gang at ResNet. They are awesome at teaching you how to upgrade and maintain your equipment. I’ve been trained to troubleshoot on software, hardware, printers and scanners. In addition to normal online school websites, there are additional IT informational sites I navigate as well. I get dozens of emails regarding IT, so I check my email every hour or so. I need to communicate with other L.A.’s or IT staff daily. Everything is online: my work schedule availability, shift swapping, timecards, and paycheck deposits. On a daily basis, I may have to unlock a student account, change a password, add printing quota money to an account, check out a camera, fix a jammed printer or comfort a freshman having an anxiety attack.
At this point I’m ashamed to admit it, but I am addicted to the Internet. I get online immediately every morning with my cup of coffee to check email, Facebook, NOAA and Casper Star Tribune. I pay my bills online, manage my bank accounts, play Scrabble, and download movies and music and search for adorable cat videos every day. Oh! And online shopping is better than chocolate. I get giddy and light-headed with joy when placing a $250.00 order for skinny jeans, new boots, and David Bowie tees from Alloy.
In other words I am constantly overloaded with information, and it hasn’t all been rainbows and bunnies. Adobe Flash makes me cry, the Scantron machine in IT hates me, and over the summer I wrote very little because I figured there was already enough information in the world. I still find it difficult to manage my time online. With all the stimulus of the web, maintaining my focus on writing, homework, meeting deadlines and researching projects will require complex balancing of various levels of digital literacy. I look forward to applying my digital knowledge to my new Writing for the Web course, so I can improve my skills and work in the field of online media one day.
Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have work to do!