The Tortoise or the Hare? – LS 560: Blog Post #5

I have never been someone who had to be “the first” or “the quickest” to do something. My philosophy is that sometimes you just need time to do something right, otherwise you usually wind up backtracking and repeating yourself. As I reflect upon this class and my IT Fluency, I would definitely classify myself as “the Tortoise.” It has steadily taken me four months to grasp the all-important “why” of IT Fluency.

In January, when class began, I possessed a murky understanding of what information technology was and why it was important. My conceptual knowledge has tremendously improved as the end of the semester nears now, and the database and video tutorial final project became my “Eureka!” moment. I understand that I will be interacting with relational databases both professionally and personally for the rest of my life, which has altered my perception of everyday activities from the Publix checkout line to ordering an item from Amazon to logging into JSTOR. I’m no longer ignorant of just how much data about my life is stored and channeled by databases. In contrast, the video tutorial made me very aware that I must understand technology at least at a basic level, or else risk perpetuating uncertainty in the minds of library users. If I can’t explain to myself how to set up an account, for example, then I’m probably not going to be highly successful as a professional who is supposed to strive to educate people.

Finally, LS 560 has taught me that I might be a “Tortoise” for the majority of my LIS career. I have acquired skills in HTML, UNIX, usability, and instruction; likewise, I have conceptual comprehension about these information technologies. Still, I do not claim to be fluent in these IT skills, and I appreciate that independent learning and initiative will be necessary for me to gradually achieve fluency. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice does produce improvement over the long haul. My concluding thoughts about information technology fluency and LS 560 can be summed up in the picture below:

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Usability & Teamwork – LS 560: Blog Post #4

For me, the usability study was a positive experience. While it certainly provided an opportunity to evaluate how well or poorly CRAP design principles were applied to an actual website, the usability analysis wound up being valuable for the same reason as my teamwork on the overall usability group project: I learned that different people have different perspectives, different knowledge, different ideas, and different methods. In effect, the user testing phase of the usability project made me realize that, in my future career, this same situation will be magnified. I could be helping a novice user completely unfamiliar with a given technology; on the other hand, I might be assisting an advanced user who has encountered a technological impediment that they cannot conquer on their own. Hence, I now understand that usability is not “one-size-fits-all,” rather it should be responsive to the diverse needs of a particular community which will likely serve patrons of varying skill levels. After this assignment, I also believe that usability would be better implemented in library settings if staff with different specialties collaborated to improve their service to patrons. My fellow team members and I brought unique technical, writing, design, communication, planning, management, and research skills to this project, and those diverse talents were integrated to produce our study. If we hadn’t respected each group member’s different learning methods and different ideas for the project, it would have been a much less enjoyable experience. I guess those kindergarten lessons of working together to pick up the room, sharing crayons, and being nice to your playground nemesis really do stand the test of time.

The Real Me? – LS 560: Blog Post #3

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test that I took in preparation for an upcoming LS 560 group project, my personality type is INFJ. However, my percentage scores did not seem that conclusive in the given categories: Introvert (6%), iNtuitive (34%), Feeling (3%), Judging (62%). I agreed with many aspects of the evaluation, but I wondered about the value of this test. It reminded me of Lucy dispensing advice to Charlie Brown for a nickel – hard to judge the soundness of such analysis. On the other hand, the test did say that I am always suspicious of others’ motives and not easily fooled.

The INFJ personality type is described as idealistic, humanitarian, achievement-oriented, empathetic, and practical. I consider myself to possess all those traits. My personality type is supposed to have “a quiet exterior with deep convictions” – which is characteristic of me and my personal beliefs. INFJ-ers are genuinely interested in people, yet have a very close, select group of family and friends with which they routinely interact. That is true of me! Also, the test said that I tend to withdraw rather than directly confront others, which has been the case in past negative group-work experiences. The test revealed that I like sticking to a plan, which is correct! I have always found writing to be relatively easy for me, and the test said writing was my niche talent along with “a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication.” The test confirmed that my personality type tends to be intimidated by science and technology, but excels at understanding theory and can apply it creatively. An encouraging thought to keep in mind for LS 560!

While I agreed with most of the test findings, I do not consider myself to have a “strong personal charisma,” and I have absolutely no desire to enter politics. Other career choices were more accurate, such as teacher of humanities or social sciences in higher education settings and, unsurprisingly, librarian!!! It was interesting that the test noted I could have career success and be effective in a wide range of occupations involving creativity, critical thinking, and public service.

For me, the most useful part of the Myers-Briggs test was the description of my INFJ type’s communication style. People tell me that I am easy to talk to, and I often give advice to friends. Hence, I was happy to learn my communication style is described as thoughtful, supportive, pleasant, attentive, and empathetic. I do find it easy to communicate with people of different backgrounds and age levels about various topics. Yet, the test also revealed that INFJ-ers can be perceived as reserved – a trait professors have often told me that I exhibit. I believe that my INFJ type will be well-suited for my upcoming group project, as the INFJ-er relishes participating in the exchange of ideas within a group to reach practical solutions.

Oddly enough, I mentioned My Three Sons in my last post, and the show’s star Fred MacMurray was an INFJ. Other famous INFJ personalities include Chaucer, Goethe, President Carter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mother Theresa, Shirley Temple, Tom Selleck (?), Billy Crystal (?), and Nelson Mandela. I thought that was a rather eclectic group of people, and while I like being very tangentially associated with someone as revered as Mother Theresa, the range of personas seemed wildly mismatched. I guess that is the point of the test – it takes all types to make up the world.

As an INFJ personality, I am geared toward practical goals and applying theory creatively. That description held true for me with my LS 560 Unix assignment. I think that I made a definite step forward in my IT fluency level by learning Unix commands. I enjoyed the assignment because I understood the command pattern to follow, yet I could easily apply that pattern to learning new commands on my own. Moreover, I liked compiling evidence of my learning together into a cohesive slideshow. Most importantly, I feel as if I finally grasped the “why” of IT fluency via the Unix assignment. Mastery of command line Unix is critical because that knowledge allows the user to employ simple commands to achieve complicated tasks within an information system, akin to simple machines in engineering and construction. Each assignment for LS 560 is a building block toward a more complete understanding and flexible utilization of information technology.

 

 

“Adjust or Bust” – LS 560: Blog Post #2

In a 1960 episode of the classic sitcom “My Three Sons,” father Steve Douglas experiences several technology-related mishaps and concludes that “life is just a series of small adjustments.” After a month of LS 560: Information Technology, I feel that his sentiment reflects my evolving IT fluency level. I am not an expert by any means, but I have achieved measurable improvement in my information technology skills, as well as an increased conceptual and intellectual awareness.

One of the ways in which my IT fluency has improved is that I now know what HTML is and how to appropriately use tags in a text editor to create a webpage. To me, learning basic HTML tags and their syntax is comparable to studying a new language, albeit communicating with a computer instead of people. My IT skill level has also expanded to include CSS, which was somewhat of an initial struggle for me. However, I employed my newfound IT intellectual capabilities to navigate through my CSS problems and ultimately fix stable colors across my website. I think my IT fluency has grown the most at the conceptual level. Figuring out how to create the webpage was intimidating, but now I have added links to external sites and even discovered how to force those links to open in a new tab!

Perhaps more than the three IT components, my perception of technology has changed the most. I find myself exclaiming, “Oh! This is a well-designed website” or “This website needs some help.” Appreciating good designs or critiquing bad designs has become an automatic response when I go online. Moreover, the issue of usability when using a digital resource is now more discernible to me. Prior to this class, I was unaware that digital resources like JSTOR should meet applicable ADA compliance standards. On the other hand, I was intrigued to find out that I have been practicing one principle of CRAP throughout my life—alignment. My mom worked in a garment factory and taught me not to purchase clothing unless it was well-made, such as stripes matching or patterns continuing across seams. Now I know that I have been evaluating alignment all this time!

LS 560 has also taught me that I should be cognizant of information technology’s impact—whether good or bad. In my life, information technology has enabled me to earn a MLIS with minimal hassle or disruption to my normal routine. This has been a decidedly positive personal experience with information technology. In contrast, last summer I witnessed a bad information technology interaction. At a doctor’s office I visited, all patients were required to fill out pre-appointment information on tablets and then return those tablets to the receptionist—only to verbally answer the same questions again with the receptionist before repeating the same information again to the nurse upon being called back to see the doctor. I saw that practice as quite stupid and was aggravated myself, but also baffled as to why senior citizens who clearly had no information technology experience were asked to conform to the policy. Because of privacy laws that prevented anyone from helping, I sat and watched an elderly man attempt to fill out his information on the tablet and saw him still struggling to do so when I left the doctor’s office forty-five minutes later. I believe information technology can be a powerful tool for social progress, but I also ask myself which segments of society that we are telling to “adjust or bust” without any help. Technological progress without a conscience is demeaning rather than a great social improvement.

 

 

LS 560 Introductory Blog

BIOGRAPHY

Hello! I’m Catherine James and this is my second semester as a UA SLIS student. I’m a lifelong resident of Tennessee and currently I’m a full-time graduate student. My personal interests include reading, gardening, and teaching first and second-graders in Sunday School. Both my undergraduate degree and prior master’s degree are in history from the University of North Alabama. My master’s thesis was entitled “Birmingham’s Culture of Fear: How a Southern City Experienced the 1918 Influenza Epidemic” and I integrated information across a wide spectrum, encompassing geography, history, medicine, law, government, African-American studies, women’s studies, religion, and popular culture.

My interest in librarianship arose from my student work experience as an admissions and financial aid assistant. In that capacity, I served people’s information needs, including helping to fill out applications, answering telephone inquiries, and explaining degree-specific course requirements, and I provided support to a diverse student body, whether first-generation enrollees or non-traditional students. From the variety of institutions where I conducted research and the range of sources I consulted to my integration of a large amount of data into a cohesive project, my thesis also confirmed my desire to know more about the librarian’s role as a disseminator of information in society. Finally, as a pediatric cancer survivor, I know firsthand the power of good information to positively shape someone’s future, enabling healthier and better-informed decisions. 

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT LS 560 & MY IT FLUENCY LEVEL

When I think about information technology, Alexander Graham Bell, NASA and mission control, IBM, men wearing dark-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors, and Thomas Friedman’s globalization treatise The World Is Flat come to mind. I would neither classify myself as technology-phobic nor highly tech-savvy. I have mastered basic IT skills such as Microsoft applications and email. While I consider myself capable in the intermediate IT concepts category including database searching, I know that I need instruction at the advanced intellectual fluency level. I view this class as offering necessary and important knowledge for any future LIS job. Last semester, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed learning about the more technical aspects of information organization in LS 500 and I look forward to this class building upon that knowledge. As far as class topics, I am particularly interested in information access, or how information technology can be used to prioritize certain users or user experiences at the expense of other population segments, genders, or age groups.

MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY FOR INFORMATION WORK

I believe that people expect to have librarians as backup when they are frustrated in their searches or just do not want to do the research themselves. In my opinion, librarians must integrate the human factor of why people seek information, its relative worth to them, and how they intend to use their findings. Only then can information systems attempt to serve all users and their varied information needs. Personally, I think that librarians could help people find more material or better data if their role shifted from being a gatekeeper of information to being an expert fireman/woman, showing people how to aim and control the hose of information.

MY USER PROFILE ACTIVITY

My mom, Nita, graciously agreed to be the subject of my user profile activity. She’s a Baby Boomer and she started using IT while working in public school library. My mom’s first IT encounter was assisting in retrospective conversion from the library’s card catalog to an electronic catalog and circulation system as well as helping students take computer-based accelerated reading tests.

Here are my IT Fluency questions and her answers:

IT skills

  1. Do you use email? Yes.
  2. Can you create a document in Microsoft Word? Yes, a basic one.
  3. Do you reply to text messages? Yes.

IT concepts

  1. Do you send attachments through email? No. Do you know that you can? Yes, I’m aware of that possibility.
  2. Do you order clothes online at retailers’ websites? Frequently!
  3. Do you use Google to find information? No. You do searches for me.

Intellectual capabilities

  1. Do you take selfies and then post them on Facebook? No, never.
  2. Do you install and maintain anti-virus software on your computer? No, I usually ask you to take care of that for me.
  3. Did you Google the BBB for recommendations of reputable HVAC installers or did you look in the printed Yellow Pages? I looked in the Yellow Pages.

My mom has strong basic IT skills, some familiarity with conceptual knowledge such as filling out an online order form at LL Bean, and her intellectual fluency level is on par with that of most Baby Boomer digital immigrants. I routinely act as her “Google” when she needs information! Overall, my mom sees information technology as simplifying her life, but at this point in her life there are many more things she would prefer to do rather than spend time increasing her IT Fluency capabilities.