Blog #7 – The Importance of Storytelling in Digital Communications

We all like a good story, something that grabs our attention and takes us out of reality for a moment. To tell a good story, you need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is important to introduce characters and have a purpose, there needs to be a point to the story you are telling. And grammar, oh grammar! Know the difference between their and there, to and too, threw and through, etc. It you are lacking in the grammar, spelling and punctuation with your blog posts, people will lose interest and you could lose credibility – and really it is just unprofessional.

Social media has given us the power to express ourselves and share our story with others all over the world. It allows us to create a personal brand and showcase that brand to the world. It allows us to engage with our followers and be creative with our messaging. Just make sure that you are being clear with your messaging, if people are left scratching their head trying to figure out what exactly you are trying to say, it is not a good thing!

Make sure to stay on track when telling your story. Try to avoid jumping from one topic to another as it can be distracting for your followers, leaving them uncertain about what exactly it is you are trying to do. You want to keep things short, leaving out any unnecessary information. If you are talking about an amazing restaurant you recently went to, telling the readers about how you took your dog for a walk the night before isn’t relevant.

I found this to be a great course, not only for content but also for practice. Having to write all of these blog posts with no real direction of what they should be about but yet at the same time having some sort of flow to them, was really great! It tested my creativity to think outside the box, to try and pick topics that were social media related but not necessarily mainstream.

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COMM0014 Blog # 6 – Regret is such a strong word

In all honesty, I am not a fan of the word regret. I am a true believer that everything in life happens for a reason and the path that you are on lead you to this very moment today. But that word does bring back a specific memory for me, one that I consider to be life changing.

When I graduated high school I was the last of the grade 13 (oh boy that dates me!). All I wanted to do was move away – move away from my family and move away from my high school friends who I just found to be so fake. So, I applied and got accepted to STFX in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, because there was double to amount of kids graduating that year there was no room for me on residence. I ended up finding a room to rent in a house with 4 other students who I did not know and who were in 3rd and 4th year. This for sure made me nervous as I wanted to be able to meet people and not just be confined to my room, which I felt like I was going to be.

At the same time, I started hanging out with a different crowd, with people I had more in common with. As we were grew closer, I was second guessing my decision of moving away. Whenever my parents would talk about packing and making the move it gave me anxiety and deep down inside I just didn’t want to do. About two weeks before I had to leave, I made the decision to switch to one of my local schools, University of Ottawa.  My parents were not happy as we lost first and last months rent for the apartment and had to pay some other fees to make the switch.

I sometimes think about what my life would have been like if I did move and went to STFX. Would I have stayed friends with the new group I connected with? Which in fact we are all still friends today. I have also made some really close friends through staying in Ottawa, again who I am still friends with today. I am now married and have two boys; would I have ever met my husband and had twins? In no way shape or form do I regret my decision to stay, for all of the reason mentioned above. Yet, I can’t help but think what life would have been like for me if I made that move? I guess I will never know.

What exactly is digital literacy? Is it an essential skill?

Many experts agree that the modern worker should have learned the following skills in order to thrive in the workplace:  creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, information, media, and technology. But what about digital literacy?

Are we not living in a digital era; therefore, shouldn’t digital literacy also be considered as an essential skill? But what exactly does this term mean?

Digital literacy is ‘the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills’. It includes knowledge, skills, and behaviors involving the effective use of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs for purposes of communication, expression, collaboration, and advocacy.

This is a relatively new concept, one that has been further explored by Professor Yoram Eshet, from The Open University of Israel, who is one of the leading researchers in digital literacy. Eshet believes that this concept of digital literacy will give more insight to the capabilities of a 21st Century worker who works in a digital environment.

Digital literacy involves more than the mere ability to use software or operate a digital device; it includes a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills, which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments. The tasks required in this context include, for example, “reading” instructions from graphical displays in user interfaces; using digital reproduction to create new, meaningful materials from existing ones; constructing knowledge from a non-linear, hypertextual navigation; evaluating the quality and validity of information; and have a mature and realistic understanding of the “rules” that prevail in the cyberspace.

In Eshet recent published paper, Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era, he goes further into details about what are the top digital literacy skills needed to survive in the digital era.

  1. Photo-visual literacy: The Art of Reading Visual Representations

What this suggests is that the one can see an image and understand what it represents – that you can ‘decode’ it. We tend to be more visual, especially when it comes to social media and blog posts – the ones that include a photo grabs our attention then the ones without.

  1. Information Literacy: The Art of Skepticism

This is the ability to weed through everything you see and read on the internet and in social media. With all the ‘fake news’ these days, it can be hard to know what is true! Information literacy is about evaluating what is out there and making sure that it is properly sourced.

  1. Socio-Emotional Literacy

This is a bit of a tricky concept as it is about “knowing how to avoid “traps” as well as derive benefits from the advantages of digital communication”.

With the growth of the social media, we now have the ability to connect with anyone and everyone around the world at any time of day.  This has created lots of new opportunities and networking for the purpose of information sharing, such as learning communities and discussion groups. However, the internet can also be dangerous, i.e. chat rooms, as you never really know who is on the other end. This is what Eshet is describing as Socio-Emotional Literacy – that you have developed the ability to understand the dangerous of what the internet and social media offers and you know to look out of them and avoid them.

  1. Reproduction Literacy: The Art of Creative Recycling of Existing Materials

The internet allows us to research and learn about what ever it is we want to know about. But can we simply copy and paste everything that we find? Of course not, that would be considered plagiarism. Reproductive literacy is about knowing you cannot simple take someone else’s work and use it as your own. You can, however, take their idea and further discuss it – you just have to make sure proper sources have been used. Eshet says that it is about creating “meaningful new combinations from exiting information”.

  1. Branching Literacy: Hypermedia and Non-Linear Thinking

In short, this is moving away from libraries and their databases to the use of the internet.

So, now that you have all of this information and more of an idea about what digital literacy is all about, what do you think? Do you think it should be considered an essential skill for the 21st Century Worker?

Source: Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era YORAM ESHET-ALKALAI Tel Hai Academic College, The Open University of Israel
Source: Essential Digital Literacy Skills for the 21st Century Worker Infographic

Twitter: What exactly is digital literacy? Should it be considered an essential skill in the 21st Century? http://wp.me/p3QRy0-gOM

Facebook: There are certain skills that the modern worker should have in order to thrive in the workplace such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, information, media, and technology. But what about digital literacy? We are living in a digital era, are we not? Find out what exactly is digital literacy and what are the top digital literacy skills. http://wp.me/p3QRy0-gOM

Are you starting a new project and have a TON of questions but you just don’t know where to start?

Don’t worry, you are not alone!

This is the case for lots of people when they are venturing on a new project. One of the challenges can be finding useful information and knowing where to turn to when you have questions. I say useful information, because in the age of technology that we live in there is SO much information right at our finger tips – the hard part is weeding through all of it trying to figure out what is good for you. A great place to start would be to get involved in a Learning Community.

What does it exactly mean when you say ‘I am part of a community’? Is being a part of a community directly related to a geographical location? Most certainly not!

A community is about “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” The purpose of a Learning Community is for a group of people, who share a common interest, to get together to discuss issues, concerns, success stories, whatever they want to on that certain topic. There is no actual leader in a Learning Community rather there is a moderator – someone to get the discussion started and to provide support. It is a place that we can teach each other, collaborate with one another, exchange ideas and information, and most importantly were we can learn from each other.

Why join a Learning Community?

A Learning Community is about bringing likeminded people together to educate one another, exchange ideas, discuss trends, motivate and support each other, the list just goes on! Whether you are new to the industry or a Rockstar, a Learning Community is a terrific way to stay connected. And the best part, well there are two best parts: 1) doesn’t matter where you live, technology allows us to connect and learn from anywhere is the world; and 2) its FREE!

So if you are starting a new project or you want to share with others what you have learned about for a specific industry, research what Learning Communities are out there for you. It is a great place to post a question, share and idea, or even ask for an opinion – you will get lots of responses from many different angles! You are sure to pick up some neat tips and tricks of the trade along the way.

Already part of a Learning Community? That’s great! Share with us on why you joined and what your experience has been. We would love to hear from you!

Facebook: Are you starting a new project and just don’t know where to start? Have you ever thought about joining a Learning Community? It is a great place to share ideas, learn what has worked and not worked for others – it can really help get the juices flowing! Check out some other reason why joining a Learning Community could be right for you http://wp.me/p3QRy0-gHW

Twitter: Do you have a TON of questions about something but you just don’t know where to start? What about joining a Learning Community? http://wp.me/p3QRy0-gHW

COM0014 – Blog #4: They might be small, but they are mighty!

I very much enjoy shopping locally and do try do it often, not only because I know where the products are coming from but also to help support local businesses. It is important to me to help try and support the little shops, to keep them going. More recently, since my boys have been born, I have been loving all of the locally made clothing for babies and toddlers. But it is hard to always find these shops, most of them I have just come across in the mom blogs that I follow – that is until recently! Now to clarify, when I say shop local, I mean within Ontario or at least within Canada.

More recently I stumbled upon the cutest little shop that I have ever seen, Little Loves Co. This is a small boutique located about 30mins outside of Ottawa in Carleton Place that carries Canadian handmade items. They have children’s clothing and adults, house décor, jewelry, nursery décor, and so much more. Pretty much all of the local shops that I have been buying from online can all be found in this one store!

They have only been opened for a about a year now, so they are still a new shop. They do, however, have a great following on Facebook and Instagram. They do not have a website, only social media. I follow them on both accounts and I don’t think there has been a day that goes by that they haven’t posted something.  This is so important, because if you don’t make yourself know DAILY people will move on. Think of email. Usually someone has a 24hrs window to respond to a request through email – if they don’t within that time, people move on to the next. Every time that I have emailed, made a comment on a Facebook post, or sent a message through Instagram, this shop has replied within hours, beating that 24hrs deadline in a fashionable way 😊

I look forward to their daily Instagram stories where they showcase items that they have in their shop. They even do share some personal stuff as well, such as one of the owners recently moved and her challenges of moving with a toddler. It is nice to see them share things on a personal level as we can relate and as a follower you connect with them more.

This shop isn’t for everyone and therefore has a very specific demographic. Customer service is everything to me and even though I might love your product if you do not provide good customer service, I will not shop with you, that is a guarantee! Part of having a social media presence is about providing good customer service. And just because you are a small local boutique, doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong social media presence. It is about creating that connection with the followers you do have – word of mouth is still so key!

 

COM0011 Blog #2 – How do you find your inspiration?

For me, I like to draw on other things that I see, that is what helps to get me started. Whether it be for a newsroom post, designing a new badge for a course, etc. I search what others have done to get the juices flowing! I recently (past couple of months) have jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon – and let me tell you, where has that been all my life! If you do not already have a Pinterest account, get one, it is a great resource to get inspired! The best part is you can create boards to categories for all your ideas so it is easy to find when needed.

The question is, how can Pinterest be useful to small business? I am no expert, however I just wanted to add in my thoughts.

The idea behind Pinterest is to drive traffic to your site (blog posts, articles, photos, etc.). Most active Pinterest users clink on posted pins that then take them directly back to a website – on average half of those active users will continue to browse and shop on those sites.

I would have to say many of use Social Media to get our content out there, to make ourselves (and our brand) known, to show that we are the leading expert in our field. From my personal experience, I now follow a TON of people who blog about food ideas and recipes because of Pinterest. I found them on Pinterest, but I now actually visit their websites on a regular basis and actually read what they post! They aren’t selling anything but they have gained my full attention and readership because of Pinterest.
Pinterest is just another way that you can drive people to site where they can learn more about you, what it is that you do, see your products that your produce and/or sell, and follow you – which is what we all want right! It is just another way that you can make yourself known and another channel to distribute your content.

Let’s consider Twitter. Who would you more follow, someone who has 57 followers or someone who has 829 followers? Me, I would follow someone with 829 followers over someone who only has 57 followers and simply because of just that – it makes them more credible and therefore more worth my time. Might not always be the case, but more followers catches peoples attention. It says ‘hey, I have something to say and people want to know what I a have to say’. 

Here are a few articles that I found that can provide more info on this as well as tips to help small business’s get started with Pinterest:
7 Ways to Use Pinterest in Your Small Business 
4 Great Reasons to Use Pinterest for Small Business Marketing
26 Ways to Make Pinterest Work for Your Business  

Pinterest has also released a series of webinars that you can watch on how it can help small businesses. They focus more so on ads (which Pinterest does just like Facebook) and how you can create a Pinterest campaigns.

Hope you find this helpful and let me know if you made the decision to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon also! If you already have, maybe you could share some tips on how it has worked for you.

COMM0011 Blog Post #1: Get the most out of your e-learning

You are taking a class and something comes up that you aren’t too sure about and you REALLY want to raise your hand but you don’t because you fear sounding like a fool and the last thing you want is for your peers to think that about you. Your palms are sweaty, you can’t focus, ‘oh no did he just say pop quiz, what is going on, I wasn’t listening!

Sound familiar?

We have all had at least one of these moments in our lives and the worst part is we forget absolutely everything we learned in class. Who loses out, we do and that’s not right! The older we get, the harder it becomes to take classes, not only due to time and money but to the simple fact that we don’t want to fail. Last fall I had to get my First Aid/CPR certification, easy right? The minute the course started the instructor said that there would be an exam at the end of the course. What was my initial thought? Panic! ‘What! An exam…I haven’t written one of those in years! What if I fail!’ I felt anxious for the whole two-day course because of this. Don’t worry I passed with flying colours 😊

E-Learning is about wanting the learner to succeed!

The point is, how can we help professionals develop those career skills that they need to thrive within their industry and have them use what they learn on a daily basis? For starters let’s take away that stress of shame. Now let’s take away the pressure of ‘oh well you missed it, tough’.

This is the best part about e-learning – there is no classroom, there are no other peers, there is just you and the course. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety and lets the learner concentrate on the course material. If you need to go back and watch a lesson again or review the course notes, you can. If you don’t feel like you are ready to take the test, no problem, take the time you need. After all, is it about “evaluation” or is the true purpose of training actually “education”?

We know what the advantages are of incorporating e-learning into your organizations training and what the benefits are to both the employer and the employee – cost effective, convenient, effective, etc.  So, the question now is how can we maximize our learning? Now that we have removed the stress and shame from the picture, how can we make it work for YOU?

You want to make sure that you are getting the most out of what you are learning, if not, what is the point really? Here are some tips for you to keep in mind when you are participating in e-learning training.

1. Take what you have learned and put it to practice

Once we learn something new, whether it be a new skill or technique, if we don’t put it to practice we will lose it. So, once you have completed an online course, try to incorporate what you have learned, at least once a day for six weeks – then see if it becomes natural!

2. Build on what you already know and have an interest in

Select courses that are right for you – that will help you gain new insight into a skill or technique that you have an interest in. If you don’t have a computer science background, you wouldn’t take a course in coding, would you? I mean you could, don’t get me wrong, but you wouldn’t be able to put it to daily use and you wouldn’t be building on existing knowledge, making it twice as hard to follow and risking the chance of losing everything you’ve learned.

3. When you catch yourself wandering, take a short break, then go back

One of the most common writing tips that people will tell you to do, is to step away once you are done writing, go and do something else, and then go back to it. Why is that? Because sometimes we are so focused that we miss a lot of what is right in front of us. Taking that short break and coming back fresh will help you to retain more of what you are learning. E-learning lets you learn at your own pace, so if you notice your mind wandering, step back and take a break and then go back when you are ready. You wont miss anything

4. Learn in an environment that you are most comfortable in

How much stress can the brain handle? When things get tough a normal reaction for most people is to shut down. If you are in a learning environment where you often feel stress and/or anxiety, it makes you uncomfortable and most likely it will be all that you can think about. E-learning helps to elevate this stress and anxiety that a classroom can make some of us feel.

Source: E-Learning Infographics

Don’t let stress and anxiety stand in your way of reaching for the top of that corporate ladder! Make sure you are getting the most out of your #elearning by following these simple 4 steps!

 

 Some simple tricks to make #elearning work for YOU!

COM0014 – Blog #2: How do you tell your story?

Storytelling is part of our every day life. Whether we are doing a presentation for work, telling a friend about what happened at the ball game last night, or writing a blog post – we are all telling a story.

All stories should start with a beginning, have a middle and an end that ties it all together. The beginning grabs their attention ‘oh, this sounds good, tell me more’. The middle lays the ground work, and the end sums it all up in a clear and concise manner. This is important, you do not want the reader to feel confused or mislead in any way. Leave out any unnecessary information that does not tie into the story, ‘I had a chicken taco for dinner. Did you see Jake’s amazing catch? It won us the game!’. What you ate for dinner has no impact on Jake making that catch and winning the game.

Ever hear someone use the phrase ‘he has a memory like a goldfish’?

Research shows that people have around an 8 second attention span – a goldfish has a 9 second attention span. This means you have exactly 8 seconds to gain someone’s interest. After those 8 seconds if what you had to say is of no interest to them, they are moving on.

Keep things short, sweet, and to the point.

First thing you want to ask yourself is: why am I telling this story? You want to make sure that your readers are walking away with a clear understanding of why you were telling them that story. Are you trying to sell them something? Are you reviewing a product? Are you sharing an experience? Make it known early on what it is exactly that you want them to get out of this story.

Have you ever opened an email and at quick glance you know this is going to take you forever to read?

For myself, when I see a long email come in, the first thing I do is skim it over, picking out the key words to see if it will be worth my time to read. Same goes for a blog post. A neat trick I learned while taking a copywrite course, is to bold key words. This not only helps with those skimmers, it will also help you out when you are reviewing it. If you just read the words that are in bold, you should be able to get what your message is. Try it out next time you write something and let me know if it helps!

COM0014 – Blog #1: Our first family vacation!

My husband and I are not much for taking vacations. Even for our honeymoon 4 years ago we just took a couple of extra days and went to Montreal and Mont Ste Sauver. We are not very good flyers, like AT ALL! We have gone places over the years, for our first wedding anniversary we drove to New York City and then in the spring we drove to Boston. We are HUGE baseball fans and we want to visit all the ball parks. We plan to one day do a California trip and visit all 5 MLB teams, for that we will have to fly!

Last summer, we did not travel very far, we went to the Toronto (from Ottawa) to catch a Jays game and visit the Aquarium. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but it was our first family vacation so it was a very memorable trip. We have twin boys, who are currently 17 months –when we went to Toronto last summer, they were 5 months old. Let me tell you, travelling with babies is crazy! The boys themselves were fantastic, it’s the amount of stuff you have to bring with you that is crazy. We were exhausted by the time we got home, but we did it and it was a lot of fun.

Let me tell you about our Blue Jays experience. We bought amazing seats, just up a couple of rows from home plate. It was a beauty of a day – the sun was shinning, it was warm, a perfect day to have the dome open. We were staying only a couple of blocks from the Skydome and having a double stroller we decided to put the boys in carriers and we each wore one. They had Jays jerseys to wear and we bought them those sound proof ear muffs because it can get very loud at sporting events. Those were a great investment and they had no issues wearing them which was good! We get to the park, walk around for a bit, find our seats, I sit down with one while my husband goes and gets us each a beer. Oh, and keep in mind we also had a backpack full of stuff for the boys. Now, remember I said we had awesome seats and it was a sunny day?

Let me paint this picture for you. We had 2 seats only for pretty much 4 people and a backpack full of stuff, sitting in a busy section at a sell out game, with dome open and the sun just beaming down. I don’t even think we made it through the first inning before the boys started to fuss because they were so hot!  So those super awesome seats that we had, spent maybe about 15-20mins sitting in them. We spent the reminder of the game just walking around up top where it was shaded. We did make the whole game though, which I was VERY surprised at!

First time parents for sure, holy moly! We quickly realized that vacations have changed now that we have kids, and that is totally okay, we just need to make the proper adjustments. Like for the Jays there is actual seating that you can get for a stroller or even get an extra seat for some room and make sure its covered and in the shade! I wanted to go back to another game last summer, just so we could do it right, but we just didn’t have the time. It was a pretty funny experience looking back, one that we will never forget, that’s for sure!

If you are thinking about travelling to a baseball game with your little one(s), check out this article from Today’s Parents for some great tips – something I wish we had done!