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Embrace digital technology

Embrace digital technology – Catherine Dawson

Posted on: February 10, 2020

The best lesson I learned at university was to embrace digital technology and use it to benefit, rather than hinder, my studies. The benefits are numerous:

  • learning can take place anywhere, anytime and collaboratively;
  • multiple communication channels and social networks facilitate and encourage learning;
  • networking and connecting can occur on a departmental, national and international basis;
  • there is 24-hour access to immediate information;
  • digital tools and software reduce workloads (citing, referencing, visualising and calculating, for example);
  • vast amounts and types of data can be accessed, mined, analysed, visualised, stored and shared;
  • assistive technology provides invaluable support for students with disabilities (digital voice recorders, screen readers, distraction blockers, text-to-speech software and dyslexia-friendly software, for example).

The realisation that digital technology could also hinder my studies was an important lesson I learned. I had to take control of email, text and networking: this type of communication and activity had to be restricted unless, of course, it was to benefit my studies. Spending days trying to sort out a technological problem was not on: IT experts at the university were available to help and rectify the problem quickly and easily. Librarians were excellent short cuts to hours of unproductive searching and retrieval. Discussions with peers would reduce time in solving a technical problem. Attending training sessions or workshops provided useful introductions to tools and software that would take me days to master otherwise.

Today, digital technology is moving forward at a rapid pace. To benefit from these developments it is important that we cultivate an open and enquiring attitude towards changing technology and keep up-to-date with new developments. This can be done through seeking information and advice from library staff, IT technicians, tutors and peers; by enrolling on relevant courses, modules or free online tutorials; and by reading relevant books, papers and blogs. It is also important that we understand, and become familiar with, what is meant by copyright infringement and plagiarism of digital materials and we know how to reference, cite and quote digital materials correctly.