Friday, June 18, 2010

IT Heuristics

Here is a list of IT Heuristics. I'm sure I collected and wrote these down somewhere before but anyway.... this batch is (mostly) taken from my chapter in the rather expensive Social Information Technology book. But I may add a couple more in here, as they come to me... let me know if you think of any more.
These are the kinds of things that serve experienced IT users on a daily basis, once they've got over the various sets of inhibitions (hatred of IT, etc.) and inhibitors (access to working IT, a job or some other imperative that makes them use IT on a daily basis, etc.) that prevented them acquiring these heuristics all along.
  1. Throw the bone.
  2. Lock up the lions or they will eat you.
  3. Double-check your belt. The monkey probably stole your keys.
    After that, you're on your own initiative, right?
  4. Work out your support network: who can help you best with what?
  5. Learn about “backing up” and versioning: delete nothing, version it instead. This is done for you with the likes of googledocs or dropbox.
  6. Error messages: Try and act on their advice but if you dont understand what to do, guess, and learn from what happens next.
  7. If something goes wrong, don’t blame yourself – its usually the computer’s fault.
  8. If something doesn’t work or is taking too long, be pragmatic, find another way – there usually is one.
  9. In design, simplicity is genius: ICT allows you to be creative but that may just waste time and/or obstruct your message.
  10. If you forget how to do something, 'google it' or use a program’s help system to remind yourself.
  11. A key function of computers is that they are good at storing, managing and searching for information. What are the implications of this? Here's one: don't spend ages hunting for a file or sentence, the computer knows where it is - get the computer to search for you.
  12. ICT is made up of files: learning to manage files is key.
  13. Typing is still an important skill: Use a “learn to type” program to gain efficiency and confidence.
  14. Copy and paste: it works between applications although Paste Special, unformatted text is useful to avoid carrying over the formatting.
  15. Become familiar with these 4 shortcuts (there are more): WindowsKey+e (Windows Explorer)or WindowsKey+d (show desktop), Ctrl+c (copy) Ctrl+v (paste).
  16. Right click to access task specific functions (e.g. open link in new browser).
  17. ICT can not be trusted.
  18. Everything is owned by someone (beware of copyright)
  19. Never use the space bar to align text – use tabs, indents or a table instead. Find out about these from the help system.
  20. Use heading styles in Word (enables table of contents, document map, etc.)
There are probably a few more, but that's quite enough to be going on with. I identified this as a major flaw in attempts to get students doing networked learning. If they can't or won't use IT, they will not get very far with networked learning. In 2001, the Guidelines authors assume that the mere passage of time will soon negate any problems of engagement and access. In 2010, that assumption seems as strong as ever in my corner of higher education. We have to crack this to move these people on, and the usual tick-box approach to teaching IT skills will not cut it. ECDL, or something like it, may be an option, if students of it are fully engaged, but, as a qualification, it's soon reduced to 'learning to the test'. Organisations can be just as results-focussed, and the learning opportunities they implement suffer as a result. We must 'promote connections of meaningful IT use in the minds and lives' of learners. It is suggested that just such an heuristic-level approach may get them off on a better footing than sitting confused in an IT lab and, when they leave, forgetting everything they learned inside it just minutes before.

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