This is a slightly dual purpose blog post, but please do not be deterred, and instead read on…
If you are currently enrolled on MANG1022, you will be aware (or are now aware…) that you have a recently had a session with us, on Digital Literacies. The session was largely interactive, and involved you looking deeper into your own social media profiles to understand exactly what an “Online Identity” consists of. After the session, we asked that you read this complimenting blog post to pick up on the other areas of digital literacies and hopefully if you’re reading this you heard and responded to that request so thank you! Now before I launch into detail of the resources that are going to help you do even better than usual in your next assignment MANG1022 people, I would like to point out that if you are not on this module, this still will hopefully remain a useful post for you, helping to signpost many helpful sites and content. So as I said, please do not be deterred, and let us all read on.
You’ll hopefully recognise the above diagram from the session, showing how digital literacies are broken down into four key areas, academically speaking:
- Online Identity
- Creating Materials
- Information Management
- Effective Communication
While these terms might seem a bit ambiguous to begin with, I plan to tackle them in a very specific manner, suggesting individual resources you can use to aid you in each of these areas. Online identity was covered in our session, so I won’t go through that here, but if you are interested in reviewing this you can find the slides on SlideShare.
Creation of materials is an intentionally ambiguous term to explain how we might use Digital technologies or services, to produce a massive range of things.
You are likely to have unconsciously developed your creation skills from the earliest days of your learning. Cutting and sticking paper shapes in nursery, up to creation of detailed posters in A-Level (or equivalent) subjects. These tasks will all have contributed to your creative capabilities at this moment in time. What we aim to do is show how you can best apply that creative instinct (it is in all of us, I promise) to your university work by using tried and tested digital resources. See my top three below;
- Prezi – a fantastic resource for producing presentations. I’m prepared to bet everyone will have used PowerPoint, and while Prezi has garnered an unfair reputation as a “motion-sickness inducing” form of presentation, with a bit of care you can create spectacular looking presentations illustrating your content far better than PowerPoint thanks to a fluid slide structure. You can even export timed Prezi’s as videos! Try Prezi Now.
- Canva – a lesser known gem in the field of graphic creation. I don’t have anything against Microsoft per se, but Canva provides a much nicer way of creating modern posters than using an AutoShape/WordArt/PowerPoint combination. While you have to pay for some content, you are free to upload any images you want and can create stunning posters and more without spending a penny. One of my favorite features in the built in infographic templates, which look incredibly modern and professional. Try Canva Now.
- Engage – a new addition for this year. Engage is an industry-level process modeler, used by many businesses. Students have free access, and it is a valuable skill to be able to use this tool express your ideas when it comes to process management using diagrams, which will be much clearer than text. This is a fantastic tool for creating business-specific diagrams, a far step up from a flow chart or a diagram found on Google Images. The strength is in the fact that it combines a very easy graphical user interface with a powerful calculation and evaluation function. Allowing, it to help map processes and run calculations, as if combining a very easy version of Visio and Excel. You can create bespoke process models for your own assignments to help illustrate your point and save on those precious words! Try Engage Now.
Now, how would you define Information Management? To me, it is the process of managing the huge wealth of information online, and helping you to keep track of any useful sources you might come across. This is clearly particularly important in an academic setting, where it is not only important to keep track of all your useful sources, but also to manage them in an effective way. Enter my two favorite resources for doing exactly this;
- Evernote – a fantastic note taking resource, that’s as versatile as it is compatible. Evernote can be used on all devices (almost) and can take notes, save web clippings, give presentations, build flash cards, hold files and more. I personally use it to save useful web articles and to take all of my lecture notes. I am aware some people still prefer to use pen and paper, I know I will be hard pressed to change this, so I respect that decision. For me one of the biggest benefits of Evernote is the ability to search through all of your saved content (webpages, notes and more) for specific terms, which is massively handy for assignments and revision. Even if you’d prefer not to type your lecture notes, I really do urge you to give Evernote a try. Try Evernote Now.
- RefMe – the best reference manager for me personally. Now, I include the “for me personally” clause here as I realise reference managers are a highly a personal choice. The benefits of RefMe (collaborative work, scanning a barcode using the app to reference a book, many export formats and a gorgeously clean interface) for me make it by far and away the best reference manager I have used. While I am not going to sit you down individually and tell you why your current method of referencing is wrong, I have never heard of anyone who had a bad experience with RefMe (just ask my housemates). Try RefMe Now.
The final area to talk about is effective communication. This is the area where it is most easy to come across as patronising, so I will do my best not to do that. I don’t meant to tell you how best to communicate both your work and on a personal level to others but instead to just explain the benefits of a couple of digital platforms you may not use at the moment. Without further ado:
- WordPress – the world’s favourite blogging platform. Urgh, blogging. So 2009 right? Wrong. The importance of blogging has never been greater, despite its purpose morphing slightly due to the stratospheric rise of Social Media like the ones mentioned below. Having a WordPress blog is a remarkably free and easy way of building a fantastic online portfolio. Even if you only publish your assignments and notable pieces of work supplemented by the odd blog post, it is a fantastic way of displaying your work to potential employers. A CV can only be 2 pages, but a blog can be 2,000. Try WordPress Now.
- Social Media – possibly the broadest term used to describe a Digital Resource in history. This ties in with online identity, and I could talk about Social Media for days on end (I’m exciting I know) so I’ll just point out the importance of having a positive online identity when it comes to social media. I am not saying using Social Media for social purposes is wrong (let’s face it, the clue is in the name) but instead that this should be managed. Regularly check your privacy settings, and don’t be too outrageous when it comes to post night out pictures. Far more important than is though is utilising networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to build yourself an academic presence on the web, and to create professional connections. Start doing this now, and your future self will thank you massively for it.
That concludes my brief tour through some of my most used, and I believe most powerful, resources. As I say, none of this is an order, and I don’t expect everyone to get on with all of the resources. Instead, I hope you will give them all a try and find out what works for you. This guide is far from exhaustive, and I’m sure plenty of you use resources I have not even mentioned. If you do, please mention them in the comments and I will investigate them; we should all always be looking to learn! I hope you found this post useful, and I will see some of you in the lecture next week!
Thanks for reading.