Digital World Toolkit

Disclaimer: If you are a digital native, this post may read as pointless.

Once again, Friday night at dinner with friends, the conversation turned to "that Facebook thing" and went on to encompass texting, e-mail and other communication tools of the digital world. Overwhelmingly, there seems to be a perception among my 40+ friends that digital interaction is replacing personal interaction and that we are losing something as a culture. My friend, Nancy-the-Insightful, made the point that it isn't replacing personal interaction....it is actually facilitating it.

Marc Prensky talks about digital natives (a person who has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3) and digital immigrants (those of us who grew up without digital technology and adopted it later). For example, while a digital native might refer to their new "camera"; a digital immigrant might say "digital camera".

So, for digital immigrants, I thought I'd come up with a "digital toolkit" for what is out there and how you might want to use it. Note: You don't need all of these to get started, but it's a good overview.

1) Publication. Mass communication used to be held by those who had the money to own a magazine, radio station, or television station. Blogger, podcasting, and YouTube distribute that power to anyone and everyone. (I often laugh that this blog is a magazine written by me that covers only the topics and people I am interested in.) If you ever wanted to be a writer, public speaker or television producer, you no longer have to wait for someone to approve and air your stuff. You simply put it out there and see if other people enjoy it too.

2) Digital Camera. The digital world is highly visual. Carrying around a digital camera allows you to capture and share moments with others. This is more than scrapbooking without the glue. It can be journalism or art. Your choice.

3) Photo editing software. Because my day job relies heavily on graphic software, I have Adobe CS2. But there are tons of options of affordable software for cropping and repairing digital photos. (In fact, you usually get a basic easy-to-use piece of software free with the camera.) If you want more functionality than that or want to explore creating digital art, Corel's Paint Shop Pro is a great equivalent to Adobe Photoshop for a fraction of the price.

4) Join a digital network. Though I'm enamored of Facebook at the moment, there are thousands of web based communities out there and most of them are free to join. In addition to Facebook, I'm a member of one for sugar glider owners. Use your friendly neighborhood search engine to find out what's out there on topics that interest you.

5)Text messaging plan. Get a text messaging plan for your cell phone...unlimited if possible. I have to say, I didn't get it at first. How could my daughter, Bethany, exceed her 1500 text a month limit? I've since learned this is more than the digital way to pass notes in class. You can send the text "Starbucks" along with your zip code or "weather dallas" or "news soccer" to 466453 (GOOGLE) and get back immediate results on your phone...for free. You can also update your status on Facebook by sending a text to 32665 (FBOOK) once you set it up. Of course, sending notes is also fun. I love it when I get a digital hug from my husband randomly during the day.

6) Switch to Flock Once you have this digital stuff down, scrap whatever internet browser you are using and download Flock. (Flock.com) It integrates all of your contacts from Facebook and MySpace, pulls in the blogs you track (RSS Feeds) and pulls in Media Streams you enjoy. It takes some time to set up and teach it what you are interested in, but once you do, it is FABULOUS!!!!
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall