The computer is, primarily, an advanced communications tool as evidenced by the fact that nearly all human/computer interaction ends with the creation of a document to be consumed by others. The expert computer user is technically eloquent and efficient, capable of communicating subtleties in a variety of media including text (email, chat, online forums, wiki, blogs, newsletters, “PowerPoint” presentations, reports), graphics (graphs, charts, diagrams, digital images and video, animation), audio (podcasts, soundtracks), and a combination of these (interactive multimedia). Even applications such as airline reservations systems are ultimately just messages sent from the customer to the airline stating all the facts necessary to reserve a seat on a plane.
The expert computer user is defined by her level of mastery of computer mediated communication and not just on her knowledge of software or hardware. She is liberated by the computer as a communications tool, not burdened by it. She looks for, and recognizes, consistent user interfaces in all the systems she encounters. She takes risks when using automated systems to increase her efficiency and isn’t disheartened when something doesn’t respond as expected, in fact, she always has a backup plan. She has a clear idea of what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. She has a clear understanding of who her audience is including their level of computer expertise. She understands and can elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses of communicating a message in one medium over another. We recognize this user by her adeptness and lack of fear when interacting with computers.
The expert computer user types with all 10 fingers and without looking at her hands at more than 50 words per minute. She uses keyboard shortcuts rather than reaching for the mouse. She is autonomous. She searches the internet for answers and ponders the authority with which the answers are written prior to taking action. She synthesizes and shares her findings with her peers via email, chat, blogs, and wikis or any media she feels will best communicate her intended message. She participates actively in a variety of online networks sharing and garnering knowledge in a variety of subjects, not just computers.
Whenever I’m asked for help, I’m always trying to raise the level of computer literacy to something close to the above description. Unfortunately, most people aren’t interested in climbing quite so high and alas, my hopes are almost always dashed on the rocks of unrealistic expectations. Have you any interest in raising your level of computer literacy?
In my 10th grade IT class, my students are learning the difference between semantic markup and non-semantic markup. As a test, we created a fake product, pezrasine, and asked each student to create a web site consisting of a few pages advertising the product. The goal is to see which of their sites appears first in google when searching for this invented word/name.
As one would expect, they had a lot of problems producing technically correct pages using Amaya as their only editor, but for this test, that shouldn’t matter. In fact, it will be interesting to see if google penalizes technical difficulties…
So, if you have a free minute and want to learn about an amazing new hair gel called pezrasine, follow the link and click any of the two-letter links that follow.
Just a quick note for those experiencing the same issue. After a fresh install of an LTSP server from the Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) alternate CD I was unable to connect from any of the thin clients. I kept getting a TFTP timeout (but DHCP was clearly working).
After checking all the variables mentioned in this article, I discovered that the filename for pxelinux.0 in /etc/ltsp/dhcpd.conf ended in .tmp as in:
filename "/ltsp/i386/pxelinux.0.tmp";. I don’t know if this is a bug in the installation program or what, but removing “.tmp” worked like a charm and everything is now up and running, and I’m thrilled!
After 7 years of working as a Web Developer remotely from the island of Gran Canaria (and nearly 20 years in some IT related position), I started teaching IT to high school students here in the Canary Islands. Working with teens has been an eye-opener, to say the least…
More than 50% of my students had never used email and had never heard of Netiquette at the start of the school year. Although the curriculum from prior years included the creation of PowerPoint presentations, writing blogs, and modifying HTML, not one student knew how to set a margin or a tab in a word processing application. I was agahst! How could such gaps in basic IT knowledge be tolerated? Where was the curriculum designer? Who gave all these kids email addresses without making them take (and pass) a test on Netiquette first?
To their credit, what they did learn (creating videos, for example) they learned pretty well. Nevertheless, in the business world (and for the foreseeable future) formal business communication (contracts, proposals) takes place in writing, not video, and via email, not via Tuenti. Furthermore, these students, moreso than those who came before, absoultely MUST master computer mediated communication if they ever hope to succeed in their careers.
For these reasons I decided to conduct a series of interviews with some of my former (and present) clients, co-workers, and related software developers. In these interviews we discuss a variety of aspects of working remotely. Most of the people I spoke with coincided on one thing in particular: being able to express yourself clearly, in writing, is the deciding factor of whether or not to work with you. One of the interviewees put it this way: “I am going to quickly look for ways to eliminate 95% of [the resumes that cross my desk].” Expressing yourself poorly in writing makes you a likely target for elimination and this series of interviews is intended to drive that point home.
Now that I’ve edited down the videos and watched them all myself, I’m surprised how consistently the following themes came up:
- There must be trust between both parties, but it’s not that hard to achieve.
- Expressing yourself clearly and effectively in writing is crucial to your success.
- Most problems that arise are the result of a lack of trust.
The café where I recorded most (but not all) of these interviews was my favorite corner café here in Las Palmas: Coffee Break.
The interviews that follow have been edited down to fit within the 15 minute maximum allowed by YouTube.com, but there was a lot of great stuff left on the cutting room floor… Click the names of each person to watch the video and enjoy!
- Jim Devereux, Director of IT for Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP: “”
- Geoff Hoffman, Web Developer (and Designer): “It’s important to be able to formulate a complete sentence…”
- Rich Siegel, CEO of Bare Bones Software, makers of BBEdit: “There is no more valuable skill than being able to express yourself clearly and effectively in writing”
- Ricardo Uribe, CIO of CGNet