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You don’t know what you don’t know

If we don’t know what we don’t know, how can we ever get to know it? In this video, Mike Dunn tries to get to the bottom of it.
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My name is Mike Dunn and I am a member of the Teaching and Learning Team in Information Services, so I spend most of my time helping people with IT in training and support. I used a popular search engine and I looked in the image search for the word “digital” and what I got out of it was
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really interesting: I got lots of pictures that were sort of swirling shapes – tunnels of noughts and ones – strangely enough all in blue. It made me think that digital is so… I don’t know… magic! But it’s not. Digital literacy isn’t a sort of mystical experience.
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Being a digital citizen is about very very practical things: It’s about choosing and using. It’s about choosing the right sort of devices. If you are in the middle of nowhere doing an archaeological dig, you wouldn’t want to take a desktop PC with you. And if you were needing to work collaboratively with people, you need to choose an application that works collaboratively. The trouble is, many of us find it difficult to make the choices because we don’t know which to choose. And it’s a truism to say you don’t know what you don’t know.
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Let me give you some examples: word processors have been along for a long time so we all know how to use them, right? Maybe? So a student comes along to me wanting some help with their dissertation. They have written their dissertation and you know it looks fantastic! And they want to add a table of contents and they want to put some numbering on the headings; and they know the word processor does that but it won’t work for them. They haven’t spotted that actually you have to tell the computer something about the structure of your document, it’s not enough just to give visual clues. And they didn’t know that because you don’t know what you don’t know.
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Or a colleague of mine came to me with a spreadsheet, and they wanted some help because they had some dates in there and they wanted to sort the spreadsheet by the dates, but it wouldn’t work. So I had a look, and in the date column it’s got things like “a week on thursday”, “week three”, “sometime early January”… And what they hadn’t understood was
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that a computer can’t deal with things like that: you have to be very precise with data types if the computer is going to be able to make sense of that. And they didn’t know that because, well, you don’t know what you don’t know. Or another colleague of mine took a great photograph with a digital camera and put it up on a webpage. They couldn’t understand, then, why the webpage was taking so long to load. They hadn’t understood that if you are putting a huge great digital image onto a webpage, you need to optomise it to make sure that it’s the right size for the webpage. And they didn’t understand that because, well, you don’t know what you don’t know.
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So it’s about choosing – choosing the right device and the right application – and it about using – using the applications as they were intended to be used so that you can get the best out of them. So it’s about finding out what you don’t know, and getting to know it.
“…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know….it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.” – Donald Rumsfeld
If we don’t know what we don’t know, how can we ever get to know it? Teaching and Learning Advisor Mike Dunn tries to find the answer.
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Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society

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