Monday, September 2, 2013

Being Computer Literate In A Digital Age Is A Must

Back in the old days (O.K. the 80's and 90's) K-12 education made a big push to make students more computer literate. We moved from typing classes where we went through drill after drill of learning the keyboards, to computer classes. By the 90's, schools started having students work with programs and platforms such as Microsoft Office. The goal was to insure they understood how to use these programs effectively and efficiently. And yet, in recent years, many of these programs have been eliminated because, as many educators feel, "kids are very computer savvy with all of their iPads, Smartphones and so forth.

But, the reality is that the computers and technology have gotten smarter and the general population has not maintained pace with the technology. There are all of these great technological tools out there and people with no idea how to use the programs. Let me give you a few examples.

I frequently work as an adjunct instructor teaching writing at the local community colleges. I am finding that my time in class, that I would normally have devoted to really enhancing their writing skills has gone to teaching computer technology. Students think they are using their spell checkers and grammar checkers, but in reality, they are simply waiting for the "wiggly line" to appear in their documents. Many don't know how to even double space documents. The scary part is that I have had several students think they are on a word processing program, when in reality they are using Notepad. They get their double spacing by simply hitting enter twice at the end of each line. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I bring this up because of the huge shift in publishing to a more digital climate. Submissions are mostly digital now. These submissions even require unique formatting to insure the editors and agents can read the material. We now market our books using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. And, if you are in self-publishing, you now have to understand the unique platforms and formats necessary to make the projects digitally ready for the publisher you are using.

There is an expectation now that if you move into "professional publishing", whether it is traditional, independent or self-publishing, that you are technologically "up-to-date."Agents and publishers are simply not in a position to spend all of their time teaching you how to format your manuscripts and to do the things you should already know how to do.

I do have to say, I am always amazed at how many people will contact me with submissions totally unclear as to what they are doing. For example:

  • Email submissions asking for my email address because they want to submit to me.
  • Not knowing how to attach a document to an email
  • Not knowing how to format a manuscript in double spacing
  • Not knowing how to format a manuscript in .RTF format
and probably the worst case...

  • Not being able to fill out the submission form on the website.
Look, we aren't asking you to be able to code your own programs. We aren't asking you to be a full blown computer engineer. The basics are not that hard to learn. Community colleges offer continuing education courses in the basics of MSWord and other similar programs. If anything, there is that little box at the top of your computer programs that looks something like this -------------------------------------------->

Take the time this week to do a little exploring of what your technology can do for you. You might be surprised as to how easy your life can get.

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