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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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1 Information in a digital age

Image of the variety of different tools that are available in a digital world.
Figure 1 Our digital world

You may have heard people say that we’re living in an ‘information age’. The ‘information age’ started around the 1970s and shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, the pace of change is accelerating. The Collins English Dictionary defines the ‘information age’ as:

a time when large amounts of information are widely available to many people, largely through computer technology.

(Collins, 2016)

Computer technology has advanced quickly in recent years. It has changed our lives and continues to do so. This ‘revolution’ in computing has given us access to information at the touch of a button. We are no longer limited to desktop computers and can access information from anywhere, and at any time, using mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. Technology has become a significant part of everyday life and has brought information instantly to our fingertips.

Recent advances include voice recognition software on mobile devices that can actually ‘talk’ to us. We can ask them to find the information we need, and they can tell us what we need to know. Examples are ‘Siri’ on Apple devices and ‘Cortana’ on Windows devices.

Our phones use location tracking to identify where we are, and provide us with information that they think is relevant. If we're looking for a bank, a smartphone can determine where we are and locate the nearest one.

We can document what we do, by taking photographs or videos, which we can instantly share with family and friends. We can also record and share our thoughts by pressing a button on our phones, computers, tablets and now using ‘smart’ watches.

If we want to find out how to do something, whether it’s how to bake a cake or build a house, it’s likely that there will be an online video showing us exactly how to do it.

We are now surrounded by information whether we’re at home, at work, or studying.

Activity 1 Your digital environment

Timing: 15 minutes

You will get a better sense of your own digital environment by reflecting on how you use the internet and social media. Later on, this will help you to identify which skills development activities would benefit you most. The list below gives some examples of activities you might have engaged in during the last month. Pick two activities and provide some details on what you were doing, why you were doing it, how it helped and any issues that came up. Make your notes in the table provided in your Digital plan. You can also write about an online activity that doesn’t appear on the list.

  • Searching for information on the internet (news, holidays, restaurants shopping etc.).
  • Passing information on to another person or group (hobbies, clubs, social media).
  • Finding out about a current affairs issue.
  • Using social media to share news, comments, photographs, and video and audio clips.
  • Writing about an interest online.
  • Sharing information about yourself on social media.


You may have noted down some of the following. If any of them trigger any recollections, add them to your list.

Table 1
What I didWhy I did itHow it helpedIssues raised
Searching for information on the internet (news, holidays, restaurants shopping etc.).I was looking for some information on inflammatory arthritis because my mother has been diagnosed and I wanted to understand it, and find out how I can help her.I searched on Google, and got a large number of results.

There were so many results that I didn’t know where to start.

Some sites were really complex, and the others just seemed too trivial. Then I found that not all the information was the same across the board.

Passing information on to another person (hobbies, clubs, social media).I’m on the town Christmas lights committee. I’m responsible for arranging meetings and telling people about how they can donate or help out. I send out messages on Facebook from our Facebook group.I’m familiar with Facebook, so I was really pleased that I was able to set up a group. I’m never sure how many people are reading the posts. It goes in their news feed, but I’m not sure if they keep track of what’s in there. Sometimes we get posts on our wall that I don’t think are appropriate. I have to delete them, so no one will get offended.
Finding out about a current affairs issue.I wanted to know about each political party before I voted in an election. I looked on news sites and also the different political party websites and social media.I found the news sites very helpful.I didn’t want to follow political groups on Facebook, in case it goes on some kind of record. The campaign seemed to have a lot of mudslinging and I was never sure what the truth was.
Using social media to pass on information.If I see an interesting post on Facebook, I share it with my friends.Friends find the information I share interesting and useful. I learn a great deal from information shared by others.One time I passed on a story without really thinking and it offended quite a few of my friends.
Writing about an interest online. I’ve started to share fashion tips on Twitter. I have a few people who follow my tweets, and they seem to like it.The ‘conversations’ are really interesting.I wish I could get more people to read my Twitter feeds and comment.
Sharing information about yourself on social media.I put some pictures up of a party we had last summer. There were a lot of comments about what a great night we had.There was a picture of me dancing on a table. I was a bit worried that my boss might see it.

We hope that you have been able to identify areas you need more advice on. Over this week, we will direct you to resources that can help you to develop the skills you need to be successful in a digital world.