This morning I had a skype chat with Rochelle Mazar, who I realized just after hanging up that I’ve known for over a decade now!  (Man, I’m too young to feel this old…)  Rochelle is an “Emerging Technologies Librarian” at the University of Toronto, a title of her own creation that’s broader than just “instruction”.

She teaches non-tech-savvy faculty (and students), and tries to “get people who don’t give a crap about technology to do cool things with it”.

On what they’re teaching/learning

  • Recently threw out “we need to teach them X and Y” and instead now ask “what are you trying to do?”
  • Are they missing skills X and Y?  Yes, but did they need it?
  • Tools: what do you need to use it for?  Don’t let the tool tell you.  [An important note.]
  • Recently outfitted a room w/ giant touch screen.  Normal computer has one driver and everyone else passive, this allows for more drivers.
  • Show them tools that exist to do what they’re already doing (eg: note taking?  google docs)
  • It hasn’t occurred to most of them there’d be tools to do things that seem mundane to them

On what everyone should know

  • Play.  Don’t be afraid of breaking things.
    • Is it a reasonable fear?  Almost always no.
    • Perhaps knowledge that you have to fix it makes them fearful.  Who you gonna call?
  • Most problems are very specific to today’s tech.
    • “Copy from word brings a bunch of XML when you paste into a text box.”
    • These problems are our (tech designers’) fault.
    • So what can we teach them so that they don’t run into these problems or can navigate out?  Hmm.
  • Basic knowledge of databases.
    • Web pages and other tech get their content from dbs.
  • Content versus theme on the web
    • How it looks is different from what’s out there
  • Technology changes over time, rapidly.  Leads to legacy painpoints.  “We do this because the tech at the time was designed so that…”
    • Eg: lectures.  “I need to broadcast my voice, so I’ll build a building…”
    • Eg: syllabus.  Do I print it out?  Put it up as a word doc?
    • Eg: questions.  Call the prof?  Email?
  • Risk assessment on the web
  • Embed versus copy (my note: pass by reference vs pass by value)
  • How to construct a professional self.
    • How to use a pseudonym for everything else.
    • The value of your name.

On defining web literacy success.

  • New services, tools, social networks appear, and they have the know-how to interrogate them.
  • Take something brand new and apply it to their own lives.  “This is how this applies to me.”  May or may not be how it was intended.

Lots of food for thought there.  Thanks Rochelle!