Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Digital Literacy Decoded: Beyond Basic Web Skills

The world is moving fast, but keeping up is easier than you think. If you possess the basic building blocks of digital literacy- vocabulary, tools and confidence- you can post, download, Skype, text and message with the best of them!


The digital age has brought with it a new lexicon that can, at times, sound confusing. Much like a traveler in a foreign country, knowing the basic terms for daily life can get you quite far. Listed below  are the key terms used most frequently used in the digital landscape. This list was created by the Fair Lawn School District in New Jersey. I've added a couple new terms and changed some language that applied only to the school environment. 

Anti-Virus - An application designed to search for viruses and repair files on a computer. 
Applications - Programs that allow you to accomplish certain tasks such as write letters, analyze numbers, sort files, manage finances, draw pictures, and play games. 
AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) - A set of rules and guidelines that are set up to regulate Internet use and to protect the user. 
Blog – Short for “web log”; refers to a list of journal entries posted on a web page.
Browser – A program used to view webpages on the Internet; such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Chrome.
Cloud (Cloud Computing) - Applications and services offered over the Internet. These services are offered from data centers all over the world, which collectively are referred to as the "cloud." 
Copyright Law - The law that protects the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something.
Cookie – Special type of file which is saved on the hard drive of your computer which tracks your activity on the website when you visit a website for the first time.
CPU – The heart or brain of a computer usually housed in a tower or box; stands for “Central Processing Unit”. 
Cyberbully - The electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously.
Database - A database is an organized collection of related information that can be used for searches. 
Desktop – The primary start screen of icons on a computer monitor, from which users can access programs, files and folders.
Download - To copy data from one computer to another.
Domain - Contains a group of computers that can be accessed and administered with a common set of rules.
e-reader – A portable hardware device that is designed to display textual data like e-books, magazines and digital newspapers (e.g., Kindle, tablets).
File - A file is a collection of data stored in one unit, identified by a name; files can be opened, saved, deleted, and moved to different folders.
Firewall - Technology that prevents users from visiting inappropriate web sites and protects the network from unauthorized users. 
Flash Drive – A small external device for storing data; also called Memory Stick or Thumb Drive.
Folder – An object that can contain multiple documents; folders are used to organize information.
Hardware – The physical part of a computer which includes the keyboard, monitor, mouse and CPU (computer box).
Home page - An introductory screen on a web page on the World Wide Web, used to welcome visitors. A home page can include special text or graphics on which you click to jump to related information on other pages on the Web. 
Hotspot – An area that has an available wireless signal for Internet access (usually public and often free).
Hyperlink or Hypertext - Special text when clicked jumps the user from one related topic to another. 
HTML – The computer language in which web pages are written; stands for Hyper Text Make Up Language.
Icon – A small image or picture on a computer screen that is a symbol/shortcut for folders, disks, programs or printers.
Identity Theft - A crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception.
Intellectual Property – The ownership of intangible and non-physical goods, including ideas, names, designs, symbols, artwork, writings, and digital media (i.e., audio and video clips that can be downloaded online). Since intellectual property is intangible, it is more difficult to protect.
Java Script – A mini program that runs in the background of webpages to add some dynamic features.
Netiquette -Etiquette governing communications on the Internet.
Network - A system of connected computers that allows the sharing of files and equipment. There are two types of networks: local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN). 
Operating System – The software that controls the basic function of the computer, such as Windows XP, Windows7, or Yosemite on a Mac.
Phishing – Phony emails, popups or texts that lure you into giving out personal and financial information. 
PDF – A file format that is developed and used to display and print documents; usually not editable (stands for Portable Document Format).
Program – Software that runs on a computer; also known as application, such as Word, PowerPoint, Smart Notebook.
Save As - To save a document with a new name or file location. 
Server – Designed to support a computer network that allows users to share data, software and peripherals.
Shortcut - An icon that points to a program or data file. Shortcuts can be placed on the desktop or stored in other folders, and double clicking a shortcut is the same as double clicking the original file.
Social Networking – Using the Internet to create a virtual community by sharing messages, comments and other information using websites designed for that purpose. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. 
Upload - To transfer data from one computer to another.
Tablet – A portable computer that uses a touch screen as the primary input device instead of a keyboard and/or mouse. iPad, Kindle Fire, etc.
URL – The address of a specific website or file on the Internet; stands for “Uniform Resource Locator”.
Web Browser – Program used to access the Internet; common browsers are Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
WiFi – Refers to the wireless network technology that allows computers and other devices to communicate over a wireless signal.

Having the right words to explain questions or concerns can make troubleshooting easier.
Now that you understand the digital vocabulary, it's time to apply it. How you find information you need as seamlessly as possible?


Need to dig deeper than a Google search? Have you used the Library resources your library card gives you access to? Start on the SPL home page and click on Browse the Library.

Next, select Learning and Resources from the drop down menu. You can search by interest category or select All Research Links for the database list.

Remember to have your library card handy since most of the databases will ask for your card number and some will require you to create an account with them in order to save your searches. You can apply the same search techniques from the Google video inside the databases. The best way to become comfortable is to practice on your own. You can also take advantage of Ask A Librarian services from the library and either ask questions or schedule a one-on-one session for a specific topic. 


Now that your foundation is set, you have the tools to build your knowledge base. As you do more online, your skills and confidence will grow. One of the best sites for self-guided practice is Learn the Net. Take some time to explore the site and watch their how-to videos. Don't forget about You Tube either. 

Remember- practice makes practically perfect in every way!

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