Are you on Facebook? It’s a comment many of us use quite naturally now on meeting someone new, common parlance simply because so many of us are. Statistically, if you’re reading this, you’re probably a Facebook user, even if you have issues with the platform, its security, its algorithm theft, its ubiquity. If you’re not – you are probably doing something more interesting. But, geek that I am, what interests me is the number of people who fold their arms and say, “I’m rubbish at IT” – and yet operate smoothly on the intuitive platform of the world’s most famous social media site.
Facebook is sophisticated tech. You set up a profile, decide your security settings, upload photos and video. You share posts and like comments, tag people in, make nuanced decisions about what to share and what to keep to yourself. You probably operate across a number of devices, going to events, joining groups, opening up links. You might even market your business on Facebook or search for lost friends. If you spend any time on Facebook at all, you’re probably tech-savvy. Yet transport those skills to an educational or work setting and suddenly you’re back at square one – ‘rubbish’ at IT.
As colleagues @plookit and @ali_longden start work on the FAB 2 Project ‘Opening the Arms’, I’ve been thinking about last year’s FAB 1 and what we learned about how to support students’ and colleagues’ digital literacy. FAB 1 was an eye-opener. Through Thinking Environment interviews – carefully structured to enable each participant to think for themselves – we found out things we could never have guessed, including the way digitally unconfident people nonetheless fluently incorporate Facebook into their lives. FAB 1 enabled us to identify a simple model of digital resilience, which we’ve been trying to implement this year:
With upwards of 200 students on our Social Purpose Teacher Education Programme, the Digital Nurses have been busy describing processes (‘First Principles’) and explaining why (‘Purpose’). ‘Support’ will be ongoing, particularly via Yammer (the first process we encourage ‘Fluency’ in). But none of these will lead to ‘Digital Resilience’ if we get the line between spoon-feeding and self-efficacy wrong.
What is it that enables some people to power on through, whilst others give up? Conventional explorations of ‘resilience’ focus on the strengthening potential of setbacks, of exertion past the point of comfort, feeling the mental burn of a high-intensity workout. In FAB 1 we identified untrue limiting assumptions (“I’m rubbish at tech”), throwing rocks in the path of progress. These assumptions come from poor training, from workplace bullying, from the counterproductive narrative of digital ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’. They dissolve confidence. Listening to myself, my colleagues, my students this week I became aware of how we use language sometimes…
“Yammer is down.”
“It won’t let me in.”
“The site’s not working.”
When we (I do it!) use language like this, we give ourselves permission to stop trying – and our digital resilience weakens a little. I wonder whether it would be irritating or supportive (maybe both!) if as Digital Nurses we suggested reframing the words:
“I can’t get into Yammer.”
“I can’t get in.”
“I can’t figure out how to get into the site.”
Does that make a difference? Switching the language from passive to active in this way can be empowering, there’s something about the phrasing which communicates to the brain that solving it is in our hands. In the way that we collectively articulate the language of values on the TeachNorthern programme, perhaps we can support one another to use active language when we get stuck with tech.
There are technical things I’m noticing too. I’m realising how many people rely on shortcuts to get where they want to be – bookmarks or keychains for passwords. Not only is this a risky strategy in terms of losing it all at the next update, neural pathways for the long way round never develop, making mastery difficult. And, underneath, confidence is still rocky because it all feels a bit like shifting sands. There are some platforms where I still feel I got lucky if I get in. Apparently* it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery (of any skill) and if we bypass the chance to practise…hey ho.
Personal digital resilience can be distilled to two key messages, neither of them rocket science:
- Use active, empowering language.
- Do things the long way round.
In the meantime, you can rely on us to spell out the first principles, ensuring you understand the purpose and to support your developing fluency in any way you need. Together, we can nail this.
*according to Malcolm Gladwell, not sure if he based this on good science or not…