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How do people learn about and keep up with changes in technology?

A discussion on the NIFL-Technology electronic list in July 2005, updated by David J. Rosen in December 2007

Discussion Summary

The following were suggested as ways of keeping up with changes in technology:

1. Trial and error, experimenting
2. A "tech buddy", someone who knows more than you do, but who can also talk about technology in "plain language" and who would be readily available to answer your questions in person, by e-mail or phone
3. A product's online help
4. A product's telephone helpline
5. A tech support group
6. A manual
7. Newspapers and non-technical magazines
8. University librarians
9. The National Institute for Literacy's Technology electronic discussion list (NIFL-Technology) and other e-lists
http://www.nifl.gov/lincs/discussions/discussions.html
10. Other people
11. Conferences, e.g. TESOL. For an updated list of conferences and other national adult literacy education events select: http://www.nifl.gov/cgi-bin/lincs/calendar/calendar.cgi
12. Web searches, e.g. Google narrow search
13. Technology coordinator sites from some large schools and universities that are full of helpful information
14. Tech magazines like PC World, http://www.pcworld.com/ etc.
15. ZD net   http://www.zdnet.com   is a gold mine of a site where one can learn a lot about technology including new products, ratings, price comparisons, and much more
16. tucows, at http://www.tucows.com, especially if I need some quirky program to complete a task
17. Weekly computer column in local newspaper
18. T H E journal , at http://www.thejournal.com/magazine/subscription/default.cfm
19. TechLEARNING  journal at http://techlearning.com/
20. The New York Times online. Between the business, science and arts section there is often something interesting about technology
21. The online edition of edweek distributes a monthly technology and education e-newsletter. See http://www.edweek.org for details.
22. Bill Daggett "Views you can Use" bill@daggett.com
23. Blogs such as http://www.marianthacher.blogspot.com/, http://adultedmatters.wordpress.com/ , http://davidjrosen.wordpress.com/
24. Tech programs on TV
25. Podcast tech updates such as Geek Brief with Cali Lewis at http://www.geekbrief.tv/
26. StumbleUpon, http://www.stumbleupon.com/ shareware based on user-defined themes that guides the user to web pages of interest


Whole Discussion


From: djrosen@comcast.net
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3648] How do you learn about technology
Date: July 13, 2005 8:59:42 AM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

NIFL-Technology Colleagues,

At the Centre for Literacy recent Summer Institute on Technology (in Montreal) a question occurred to me which may be of interest to you:

How do you learn about technology?

That is, how do you learn about new applications, how do you keep up with change, how do you actually learn how to use new applications (or learn to use old ones better) and to make them comfortable tools?

Here are a couple of answers, posted to the Summer Institute wiki, to get us started. I hope many of you will add your own. I think this would be useful "professional development" for all of us if we all contribute.


I come from a technology background. I tend to gravitate toward online groups of people with common interests. Currently, I am a contributor to a group called code4lib. They have a wiki too! (http://wiki.inkdroid.org/code4lib/)

--Brian Cassidy (http://www.nald.ca/BOARD/staff/brian.htm)


1. Trial and error
2. Get a "techno-buddy", someone who knows more than you do, but who can also talk about technology in "plain language" and who would be readily available to answer your questions in person, by e-mail or phone.
3. Use the product's online help.
4. Call the product's telephone helpline.
5. Join a tech support group.
6. When all else fails, resort to reading the manual. This is not always possible, however. Sometimes software and hardware comes with a digital-only manual (not hard copy) and it's not easy to find.

--Djrosen 08:48, 29 Jun 2005 (ADT)

David J. Rosen
djrosen@comcast.net


From: EJacobson@air.org
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3650] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 13, 2005 3:12:49 PM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

1. I learn about new technology from reading as many newspapers as I can get my hands on and from non-technical magazines (e.g., punk zines devoted to the DIY ethic).

2. I learn about new technology from talking to people who are not in the field of adult basic education (e.g., university librarians).

3. I tend to wait until people have started to apply technology to solve some problem, and don't pay attention to stuff still being beta tested.

4. I am usually interested in thinking about the use of technology, and don't have too much interest in the nuts and bolts. For this reason my technological literacy is very context dependent. I am comfortable in the wiki space and using blogs, but I still have a hard time with some Word functions. Part of it is being a Mac user - I want plug and play usability, and anything less than that seems like a nuisance to me. If it takes too much work for it to be comfortable, I think there is probably something wrong with the tool.

Erik Jacobson


From: djrosen@comcast.net
Subject: Re: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3650] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 18, 2005 3:03:24 PM EDT
To: nifl-technology@nifl.gov

NIFL-Technology Colleagues,

Thanks Erik. But surely others on the NIFL-Technology list continue to learn about technology. How do you do it?

I have a counter-intuitive hypothesis. "Techies", as the stereotype goes, are focused on machines and software, not people. They play with machines, they read manuals, tech magazines (and e-zines) and blogs and go to tech conferences.

Here's my hypothesis: the world of computer technology (and other electronic technologies, too) is changing so fast that no one can keep up just by reading. The faster things change the more we need -- each other -- to point us toward the solutions to tech problems. Huypothesis: techies -- and others who want to learn about technology -- need people. Self study is no longer enough.

This e-list (whether you're a techie or not) and other e-lists may be one way to see if anyone else has faced a problem you are facing and has a tip for you. I would add this list, in any case, as a strategy for learning about technology.

What can you add to this discussion about how to learn about technology?

David

David J. Rosen
djrosen@comcast.net


From: pstr9885@postoffice.uri.edu
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3657] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 18, 2005 3:45:31 PM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

I have been reading these lists for years but never have posted but this discussion is too close to me.

I am an adult educator who instructs and develops computer classes and programs for the senior citizen. Talk about not understanding the current technology they are totally lost. I have found that with patience/understanding and using common everyday words that the sense they feel of "they are too old to learn" will relax them into a learning curiosity world. Of course, the most important part of learning is relating a skill to them that they can picture in their mind.

Most students feel "my 5 year old grandchild can do it - then I can" well, what they don't realize is that are of a generation that was taught to learn instead of "playing to learn." I use an analogy about driving "picture yourself at 16 driving a car and now picture yourself today driving a car" They understand that the PC can not be mastered overnight.

What I have found is that if an instructor keeps the students curiosity active, the student will begin to trust their "learn to play mode". My students are now using digital camera's - two years ago they said, "My picture taking days are over - I will leave to the younger people." They all went out last April to a store and each bought the same camera after researching it on the Web.

Learning is just curiosity - if you want to know it - you will!

Pat Strezo
pstr9885@postoffice.uri.edu


From: mthacher@otan.us
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3681] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 20, 2005 8:38:20 AM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

How do I learn about technology? Mostly from other people. I will read an article on something I'm already thinking about, but I probably started thinking about it because somebody mentioned it.

I learned about wikis at TESOL a few years ago. I pursued the idea but didn't get too far at the time. Now wikis are more widely used and we have the adult ed and research wiki. Since getting involved with that project I've read a few articles about wikis, but the learning came first, the reading came second. I learned by experimenting and seeing what other people were doing and reading the list.

The latest thing I learned was about Internet telephone calls. I learned this by a couple of people in my life telling me I had to try it. So I did. When I got stuck, I asked someone what to do. Once I understood how to use the technology and what I could do with it, then I was interested in reading articles about it, but not before.

I've also learned about new technologies from these lists, which to me is the same as a friend telling me.

What does this say? I'm a socially-dependent learner? Maybe I'm a kinesthetic learner and I have to do it before I can study it.

I'm definitely not a hardware person. I can never remember how big my hard drive is or what brand my digital camera is.

It seems to me this is how the average non-techie person learns. My observation of students is that they learn new technologies from each other. One day one person had a graphic pasted into their email, the next day everyone did. How did they learn how to do it? They asked the person who did it!

Marian Thacher
OTAN
www.otan.us


From: djrosen@comcast.net
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3682] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 20, 2005 9:02:12 AM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

Hello Marian,

Thanks for these insights. I think many on this list nodded in agreement as they read your posting.

I would like to hear from those whose approach is different. For example, for those who read first, what do you read?

Blogs? Which ones?
Tech magazines? Which ones?
Does anyone watch tech programs on TV? Which ones?
How about newspapers -- are there particularly good columns (for example, I like Hiawatha Bray's columns in the Boston Globe)
Does anyone listen to podcast tech updates? Which ones?

Also, how do you learn about technology when you have a problem to solve? Particularly, when it isn't clear if its a software or hardware problem or, if its hardware, what piece is causing the problem (the cable modem? The wireless router? your computer? software? the connections? the ISP?)

David J. Rosen
djrosen@comcast.net


From: jhamlett@insightbb.com
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3690] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 20, 2005 5:59:25 PM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

When I have a difficult technology problem to solve I usually do a search on google (using narrow search terms helps a lot) and have found some very helpful insights and answers via tech list serv archives (related to magazines, hobby groups, etc), especially when all checks have seemed OK and the support personnel are also at a loss. This happened most recently when biz took over my browser and I was unable to set and maintain a home page of my own choosing. One can find some very helpful web sites by searching such as technology coordinator sites from some large schools and universities that are full of helpful information.

I also read a lot of tech magazines like PC World, etc., but have found that they are not as good as they used to be because of the massive amount of advertising and a switch to an audience emphasis of corporate America that was not as pervasive as a few years ago. They have taken some of the more helpful ones off of the market like the one that was geared to home PC users.

ZD net (zdnet.com) is also a gold mine of a site where one can learn a lot about technology including new products, ratings, price comparisons, and much more, as is tucows (tucows.com), especially if I need some quirky program to complete a task.

Here in Champaign there is a computer column once a week in the News-Gazette that is helpful. The Daily Herald (Lake County, Illinois) used to have a weekly Internet magazine that was overflowing with sites, reviews, and information. Although it is not published any longer, I believe there is an archive of it on their site.

If all else fails, I e-mail Tim Ponder who is a technology guru.

Jackie Hamlett


From: maureenh@azcallateen.k12.az.us
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3694] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 21, 2005 11:37:05 AM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

I use two sources. One is a magazine: http://www.thejournal.com/magazine/subscription/default.cfm I also get this email. Another is the site http://techlearning.com/ We are working on links for teachers/students to implement our AZ technology standards. The standards are on: http://www.ade.state.az.us/Adult-Ed/Documents/AEStandards/TechnologyStandards.pdf


From: EJacobson@air.org
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3703] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 22, 2005 12:20:42 PM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov


In terms of newspapers, I like to read the NY Times online. Between the business, science and arts section there is often something interesting about technology. Today there was an article in the arts section about podcasting. Much of the article is about personal or music-related podcasting, but there is also mention of technology related podcasting (especially criticism that most podcasting about technology is about podcasting itself). The link for the article is below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/22/arts/22heff.html

You may have to register to read this, but it is free and I don't get junk mail from the Times.

Erik


From: EJacobson@air.org
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3705] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 22, 2005 12:49:54 PM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

Oh, and another thing. I just read that the online edition of edweek will start distributing a monthly technology and education enewsletter. See edweek.org for details. Again, you have to register for the online edweek, but it is free.

Erik


From: livelyj@cochise.edu
Subject: [NIFL-TECHNOLOGY:3713] RE: How do you learn about technology
Date: July 25, 2005 10:30:41 AM EDT
To: nifl-technology@literacy.nifl.gov

I have found the Bill Daggett "Views you can Use" (bill@daggett.com)to be very helpful in becoming aware of technology and the role it will play in the future.


From: Barry.Burkett@Franklin.kyschools.us
Subject: [Technology 846] Re: The magic of technology for learning is outside the classroom
Date: February 12, 2007 10:19:21 AM EST
To: technology@nifl.gov

David,

I would be interested in discussing the book. But your introduction reminded me of a game I was playing last night. In the game I was a figure in the middle of a board, around me aggressors came into view and tried to shoot me, in order to shoot back I had to properly spell the attacker's name (e.g.. jet, bent, class, opinion, etc.) and hit enter. There were other elements to the game like full health and detonator packs that made the game fun and engaging, a great way to work on my taking skills.

I found out about the game using StumbleUpon. Stumbleupon is shareware that you can find at http://www.stumbleupon.com. The program uses ratings (thumbs up, thumbs down) to judge what you might be interested in and then guides you towards like pages. As the user you decide areas and themes of things you are looking for. For instance last night I searched under the technology/games field and I got the game I mentioned earlier. I am able to find obscure zines, and interesting sites that I would not know of otherwise.

Check out the page and see if the download is something you would like. I find it enjoyable and easy to use. More information about the product can be found on their page, http://www.stumbleupon.com.


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