Assumptions about digital literacy

frustration
 
For years, a highly educated acquaintance pestered me with questions about computers, the Web, email, and any new or old variety of networking technology. Perhaps because I was too eager to provide answers, I often conducted the time-consuming online research for her and responded with what I hoped were easy-to-understand summaries, including links to my sources. I always concluded my tutorial replies by noting, “All of this information is available on the Web.” I never understood why she didn’t take the hint. I’d become the path of least resistance, and I was feeling trodden.

Confess. You’ve felt that way too.

One day, I received a message from my acquaintance expressing her delight and pride at discovering she could enter a carefully worded search term in Google, which swiftly returned to her a list of websites that answered a technical question precisely. Imagine my consternation when I read the explanation of her digital epiphany. At first, I assumed my tactless hints had finally taken some kind of subliminal hold that was at last delivering results. Then, I realized that during the years of our correspondence, I’d been urging a very bright woman to “look up the answer” on the Web before she had any idea what a search engine was or how to use it.

I missed the clues.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you ascertain where to begin your explanations?

One thought on “Assumptions about digital literacy

  1. Michelle

    When I first started doing basic PC support, I learned quickly to assume nothing. After I had 3 users in 2 weeks respond to my request for them to power off the PC, and they in kind, turned the monitor off, I realized that I had to be as simple as possible.

    So, where I started by asking the caller to “power off the computer”, I ended with, “Do you see the box on the floor with a light on the front? Do you know how to power that box off?”

    One of my personal favorites was when I spent 10 painstaking minutes trying to get the caller to open the cd drive, only to have her finally realize what I was talking about and say (with such pride in her voice), “Oh, you mean the cup holder?”

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