A Driver Licence Required?

Comment from David Barrow, Communications & Development Manager, Social Development Partners and 2020 Trustee, originally posted on Community.Scoop (25 November 2014)400 2020 Trust 22-05-14LR

Look around the train carriage, the bus or in a cafe and see for yourself how many people are using technology these days.  Look into any high-rise office block and everyone is on a computer.  Our job descriptions inevitably require us to be ‘computer literate’.  It’s a fact of life.  We all use technology.

But it never ceases to amaze me just how in the 2ist century we actually interact with technology.

Younger people and the technically-savvy amongst us relish using it.  Many have been born into an age where there has always been computers and the internet. Others of us are a little more cautious about tools and toys.  We’re not ‘digital natives’ or ‘early adopters’ as the sayings go, but less persistent users of the internet and technology—‘digital immigrant’ or even ‘digital refugee’ are the terms here.

Most of us have to use technology out of necessity though.  We are nonetheless curious about what it can and does offer—after all it’s all around us—but we don’t rush out and buy the latest i-Phone or be the first to upgrade to the latest version of Windows.

The root of the matter is that a lot of us don’t really know how to use technology really well, we’re not confident, it’s not a major priority, we haven’t got the time to learn. But we do use it and adopt it to suit our own needs.

Sound familiar?

I call it the microwave oven syndrome.  Most of us have them, but I bet you just heat and thaw food in it, make hot drinks and sauces and that’s about it. You probably don’t do gourmet meals, though the recipe books or someone who does it all the time will show you how.  But for most us it’s too complicated and we stick to what we know and need.

Another parallel which comes to mind here is that we all need a driver licence to operate a motor vehicle, right?  This is so you can prove you can work the thing to an acceptable standard and of course there are safety considerations to take into account.  Imagine the chaos if everyone just got into a car and drove it however they wanted.

But when it comes to computers we don’t need a driver licence and generally we just drive them how we want.

We get some basic training somewhere along the line, we pick it up as we go at work and at home and learn by sheer experience. Some us get training (work pays) or some of us may venture to get online help and training. Typically in the work environment we may ask someone who knows.  Workplace super-users come into their own here.

There are some horror stories too. I was truly alarmed once when I saw someone writing things down from a page on a screen, and then typing the same content back into another page on a screen (they didn’t know how to copy and paste).  Equally, when someone spends ages during their working day manually splitting hundreds of first and last names in a single spreadsheet column into two separate columns (they didn’t know about Text to Columns in Excel), I really begin to wonder.

Imagine if we all had a driver licence for technology devices, such as our computer at work?  We’d all know how to work the thing better and above all our productivity would probably increase—even markedly.  Simply because we’d spend less time doing things inefficiently. We’d know more and be better at it.

Yes, there is a driver licence for computers for those who are interested.  It’s called ICDL (International Computer Driver Licence) and it’s available in New Zealand.  Many workplaces are now taking this up to ensure their staff get ‘up-to-speed’.  You can too.  Go to www.2020.org.nz/programmes/icdl-kiwiskills/ if you want to have a look to see if this could work for you and your colleagues in your workplace.

Go on, it’s not hard…

If you don’t want formal training, then there are a host of practical tips out there along with productivity gurus—pragmatic people who show us how we can improve our technology act.  Many of us relish these tips.

Auckland’s Debbie Mayo-Smith, a leading-light helping us work smarter has a host of them on her website.

Here’s her latest, just in… before you throw a used Post-it note away (you know the stickies we stick to our screens to remind us to do things, instead of using the Tasks feature in Outlook), use it to clean your computer keyboard by running the sticky side between the keys.  There are more where that came from