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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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5.4.1 Set up and use IT

In using IT effectively you may need to learn how to use particular features of the software applications involved. In word processing, style sheets and templates help you set up consistent formats for essays, reports and other documents. In spreadsheets, macros – sets of instructions that can be repeated as often as necessary – can help you to perform complex numerical operations more easily. In databases, you may need to know how to set up structures so that you can store and retrieve information in appropriate formats. In using computer conferencing systems, you may need to know how to contribute to, or set up and moderate different discussion groups. Identify which areas you need to focus on, and what you want to achieve.

If you need to search for, evaluate and select information from the Internet, CD-ROMs or other databases, find how to set up queries using search engines, and how to refine your search. Establish criteria (e.g. by date, author, subject, organisation, type, format and so on) to help you select the information you need. Be critically aware of the reliability and quality of information from different sources, taking into account factors such as commercial, political, academic or personal interests that may influence the content and presentation. How will you judge the quality of the information you find?

Set up different search strategies and criteria to explore alternative lines of enquiry. Explore and critically compare the assumptions and predictions of different models or descriptions of a situation, for example, setting up a model on a spreadsheet to explore and predict the consequences of changes in various factors. What predictions or hypotheses do you need to make or test?

Time out

In your Skills File, list your priorities for learning about IT techniques, and set some target dates to work towards.