Author Archives: Lynn

Access to Health Care Information for Non-English Speakers

My final paper was inspired by one of my recent blog posts about digital literacy across cultures.  Digital literacy plays an essential role in how groups of all types of people access information.  My paper explores how non-English speakers access to public health information compare to the homeless.  Both are sensitive groups in America that would benefit from increased digital literacy.  This paper compares and contrasts how they are able to receive information.  It also explores two ways technical communication can be used to improve non-English speakers access to public health communication.  The primary is the use of public libraries and the subsequent will be through the use of English speaking helpers who help the non-English speakers gain access to jobs and information.

I wanted to compare homeless and non-English speaking communities because they have similarities and differences.  Some non-English speakers may also be members of the homeless community. Both populations tend to be sensitive due to lack of access to medical care, access to technology and both face a variety of challenges in their daily lives.  Both groups lack traditional communication tools which can hinder their access to health care information.

My main finding was the best way to get non-English speakers access to public health related information was to help them help themselves.  Public libraries are a great free resource to information, computers and internet access. One tool I found very handle was Google’s translate tool.  You can either type or copy and paste in text and select the output language.  This could be an easy way for a non-English speaker to translate their own health information to their native language without having to rely on others or a simplified version.

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Figure 1. Translate.Google.com

What I remember from going into a public library as a child is that the computers were set up with the library website as the homepage.  I was interested in looking at different websites for different towns to see what type of language support if any was available.  I was pleasantly surprised by my hometown library website.  There was a orange button in the lower right hand corner that hovers as the page moves.  It is a link to translate the page.  This is a great resource for non-English speakers.  It makes it easy for them to learn where to click to have the information translated into their own language.

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Figure 2. ecpubliclibrary.info

The conclusion I came to was the best way to help others would be to teach them to use technology, teach them where and when they can find access and help and encourage them to learn.  As non-English speakers become more comfortable with technology they will be able to find more resources on line for public health information but it will also improve other aspects of their life.  They could even learn English through a website in their native language making things much easier.  This could help them increase their job skills and potentially find a higher paying job as well which could also increase their access to health care information.

Digital Literacy Across Cultures

This week I found an interesting connection between  Chapter 7: Understanding Digital Literacy Across Cultures in Spilka’s (2010) Digital Literacy for Technical Communication and the workplace. Spilka discusses that accessing and understanding digital media in some communication settings is one meaning of digital literacy. The chapter specifically focuses on the US EPA (EPA) and the Mexican Counterpart Semarnat.

I work for a state agency in the natural resources division.  Specifically  public dining water regulation.  This chapter made me think about the audience we had while regulating drinking water quality and how culture plays a part in who has access to the information and what information is available.

There are a few ways the public can receive heath information about possible contaminates in their drinking water.  They could initiate the gathering of information by accessing our website.  A significant amount of information is available and many  publications are available in PDF form to save or print.  The other way they could gather information is if they work at a business with drinking water issues and see postings in the break room and by faucets or fountains.  They also could go to a number of local businesses such as a church, bar or restaurant and find the same posted information.

Our publications have been created to include multiple versions for some of the hot topic issues such as lead and lead.  Both brochures are available in English, Spanish and Hmong.


Image: dnr.wi.gov

Another way we offer multi language support is through our customer service lines.  You can talk to someone on the phone, a chat through the website, or email in your questions.  All three of these services are available in English, Spanish or Hmong.

The main idea I had while thinking about this post was what happens when someone is no longer seeking this information out but a sensitive population that is unable to access this information due to cultural issues.  It is no secret that we have undocumented workers in Wisconsin.  If one of these undocumented workers work at a location with water contamination issues such as nitrates it may be difficult for them to understand they are at risk if the information is not given to them.

When there is a specific contaminate violation often times  businesses have to post a public notice that alerts the consumers to the public health risk.  While we do provide language in the violation that if they have 5% or more non English speaking consumers they also need to post in the most common language.  What percentage of these at risk non English speaking consumers will actually receive this information?

Further digging on our website came up with a number of resources specifically to translation and public notices.  These are great resources for businesses that need to public notice but I still feel like not all at risk consumes get the same amount of information as their English speaking counterparts.

Content Management in Job Searches

It can be almost funny when you find connections between real life and content in your assigned coursework. After reading Chapters 3, 4 and 5 in Digital Literacy I found myself in an ironic situation. My husband and I had to work together to create content. On Friday my husband came home from work and I asked him how his day was. He said it was fine and then I heard the real story. Corporate human resource represenatives came into the plant in our small town and said that all 40 employees would be laid off sometime between January 1 and April 1 2018. The company has a much larger plant about an hour and a 1/2 away that employees around 200 people. The employees were told they would be making 1/3 of the positions available in the larger plant but it would be open recruitment.

My husband hasn’t updated his resume since the last time he was job hunting 5+ years ago. Knowing there is such a high demand for these positions I stressed how important it would be for us to have a professional looking design with quality error free content.

My search for a new resume template started with Google search for free creative resume templates. Some pages I was afraid to click on because I was worried about the sources. Other pages had nothing but ads or still required payment. I spent a number of hours using a variety of search terms to find this content. There was very little if not zero content available that was professional, modern and clean designs.

My next search was to try to find content that was very low cost. I remembered seeing digital content such as clip art on ETSY and thought it was worth a shot.  I was able to find just what I was looking for using Etsy.com search for instant download resume templates that cost between $1 and $2

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To my surprise all it took was paying $1 instead of looking for the content for free. The template I picked had three templates with it. One for the resume, one for a cover letter and one for references. It included instructions and templates in a variety of formats. Both for the Apple software Pages and for Microsoft Word.

I think this taught me a lot about the availability and cost of content. No one wants to give up content for free. Even if it is just a dollar per download that adds a lot to the professionalism and quality of the product.

Digital Literacy in My Life

The theme of digital literacy is one that I find very interesting.  I am lucky to have grown up around technology at home and in school but I also find myself relating to digital literacy.  The older I get the larger gap I am finding from being up with current trends and technology.  Digital literacy is something that needs to be a constant in your life.  If you find yourself on the path to digital literacy and decide to stop learning you can fall behind very easily.  Even though I have a strong technical background, things change so fast that I need to actively try to keep up.  Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.

In the workplace digital literacy has been moving forward rapidly in the past few years.  At the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources we are being pushed to be more transparent and to save money. This goes hand in hand with digital literacy.  We are now keeping digital files and utilizing software like SharePoint to share information within our agency and with outside partners.  Instead of sending hundreds of emails we are starting to store important documents in one central location.  This is also happening with the information we are sharing with our external partners.  In the past there have been instances where we give our County Health Department partners flash drives of documents they need to follow up on drinking water violations.  New this year we have set up an external SharePoint website that allows them to access this information.  This is also good for our agency because we can upload new information as needed and let the County Health Departments know it is available.  We can also make small changes to errors or typos.  This is much more efficient way to share information.  In the past we would need to send out a whole new set of flash drives to everyone.

In the academic world I don’t know if I have seen as much change as I have seen in the workplace. I started as an undergrad at UW-Stout in fall of 2003.  Stout had their Laptop Loan Program up and running. I believe I was one of the first few years where all undergrads got issued laptops as part of the tuition.  This was a wonderful idea.  During my undergrad years I took a number of online classes using the same software we are using today such as Learn@UW-Stout. The library had a number of online resources just like we do today as well.  Stout was very ahead of the game with the use of technology.  I am wondering what Stout is going to do now as to keep their high level of digital literacy and technology use among students and professors.  I hope this is a trend that continues and they always stay on the forefront of digital literacy in an academic setting.

In personal life it is much harder to keep up with digital literacy.  We often keep computers, cameras and cellphones longer than the technology is considered cutting edge which makes it hard to keep up with the latest and greatest technology.  In my family we keep cell phones until they break and then we will get a new one.  We don’t go buy the newest one every year.  As time goes on cell phone performance really declines.  It’s almost like they intentionally make performance awful to push you towards buying a new one.  Many things are not meant to last a long time anymore.  Products are being made cheaper and cheaper so when you replace what has broken you can upgrade to the next thing.

Another example of digital literacy being slower in personal life is my husband’s technology use. He had a very similar experience growing up with technology at home and at school.  He has an engineering degree and has always loved math.  For his 35th birthday a few years back I decided it was a big enough birthday to do something extra special so I bought him an IPad has always loved Apple products and I thought this was the perfect gift.  He opened it and said thanks but I didn’t get much of a reaction.  I asked if he didn’t like it but it turns out he didn’t know what a tablet was.  Fast forward a few years and this tablet has become his primary computer.  He doesn’t use a traditional computer at home anymore.  He uses his tablet for everything from bills, photography, music, mapping, spreadsheets to games.  We are no longer tied to a traditional computer plus the tablet can go anywhere we go from hotels to camping.  This advance in technology has been extremely useful in our lives.

Read only: The persistence of lurking in Web 2.0

Scott Kushner discusses the contradiction of social media being fueled by participation when in reality most people virtually stand back and don’t participate in his article Read Only: The persistence of lurking in Web 2.0. I found an interesting connection between Kushner’s article about lurking and Rheinhold’s piece titled What’s a Parent to do? What’s a Parent to know? on page 245 of the Net Smart text.

As a parent of a five year old daughter my husband and I have had to think a lot about what and how much we post about our daughter. When we were growing up the idea of oversharing about children never existed. Now I have to worry about posting where she goes to school or where we are. I also worry about posting if my husband is gone for a work trip. I don’t want it to be public knowledge that my daughter and I are home alone.

Lurking plays a big role in online safety for families because you never know who read or saw information and didn’t acknowledge it. Without acknowledging it with a comment or reaction I have no way of knowing who has seen this information. Lurking is dangerous because as hard as we try to make sure our privacy is protected others may share our posts or post things about our families without our knowledge. Its like lurkers can easily gain significant facts and information without having to try. It makes it much more available to them and it also ties in the gray area of privacy. Just because you know its wrong to keep checking back on peoples posts and pages doesn’t mean that will stop them.

In general I feel that lurking isn’t always a bad thing. My husband rarely posts. Usually if he does its because he did something neat or noteworthy when his family wasn’t with. This doesn’t happen very often. Usually I am the one to post things. He also guards the number of likes or comments he makes. He believes that if you constantly like or comment on things they have way less meaning then if you hold back and only comment on things that are really neat. If you lurk in a healthy way it be a positive thing but it can be pretty easy to tip the scale and create an unhealthy habit.

I think most lurkers out there are harmless but unfortunately in 2017 the web has evolved to allow this practice to take place easily and discreetly in most cases.

Amazon Sharing Information at Incredible Speed

I was inspired by Jennifer’s blog post and also the Cluetrain’s “95 Theses” this week.  Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger discuss that through the internet people are inventing new ways to share information with incredible speed. I was amazed during the month of September at the amount of awareness Amazon.com brought to a very important issue in my family life.  Childhood cancer awareness.  Jennifer also blogged this week about another event that helped promote awareness for childhood cancer awareness.  Originally I had a different topic in mind for my blog but after seeing Jennifer’s post I realized that I wanted to share more to this story.

I first learned that Amazon was partnering with the American Childhood Cancer Organization ( https://www.acco.org/amazon/ ) through some of the cancer family groups I am a member of.  It took everything I had to not order something and waste money just to see a box.  Little did I know our iguana needed a new heat lamp and my husband made the purchase not knowing what the box would look like. Amazon sent out 10 million boxes with the following message on it:

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The marketing for this campaign is smart. 10 million boxes arriving at homes within a day or a few days to all types of people the make purchases from Amazon.com.  Amazon.com’s decisions can relate a number of ways to the Cluetrain Manifesto “95 Theses”. These #1 is Markets are conversations. These special boxes could have created new conversations anywhere from the fulfillment area, the shipping process, the delivery location and the recipient.

These #2 is that Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.  This fact really helped spread this message to all groups of people and quickly. Human beings that may not been originally “targeted” to receive this message now have the opportunity to learn about this important cause.

Did anyone else receive or see a childhood cancer awareness box from Amazon in September?

 

Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making

I enjoyed reading the article by Bernadette Longo titled Using social media for collective knowledge-making: Technical Communication between the global north and south (2014).  Longo discusses that technology has made it easy for anyone to create their own content and share their stories across a variety of technology.  For example much of the footage of civil uprisings in Egypt have been created using smart phones.  In areas that may not have the media availability, consumers have found that they can create their own content and don’t have to wait for others to share their stories.  This created content by the general public has helped provide government and police officials inside information that has helped change history.

The idea that anyone can create content which can create knowledge is pretty mind-blowing.  Technology has really allowed us to help ourselves and others.  Without in the field reporters many areas of the world could be limited in the amount of information coming in and going out.  While not all content created on social media is sharing credible knowledge it feels like we are on the right track.

Longo discusses that social media can create open lines of communication and enable collaboration.  This is also a very important concept.  Not only are we able to view and respond to communication from areas and populations of the world that were once inaccessible, we now have lines of open communication for collaboration.  Populations that never had their own voice can now create their own content and collaborate with other areas of the world.

Another concept that Longo brings up is that with all of this collaboration ideas can become a little muddled or blurred due to multiple owners, however the content can become much richer and more useful.  I can see how this could be an issue.  The more hands we have in content the more points of view are being expressed.

I feel that social media is creating a positive environment for knowledgeable content design especially in areas that previously didn’t have the ability to communicate or collaborate.

 

Where is the internet taking us?

I was very intrigued by the YouTube video posted by the Apsen Institute titled “Is the internet taking us where we want to go?”  The host discussed that last summer there were two big news stories; Ferguson and the ice bucket challenge.  It was noticed that the frequency of the stories varied dramatically depending on the website.  Twitter covered Ferguson heavily while you were much more likely to see an ice bucket challenge video on Facebook.

We all know the algorithms behind search engines and social media are different depending on the site you prefer.  The host posed an interesting question.  Can we use social media and its algorithms to sway users reactions and habits?

The host gave a good example showing how social media did make a difference in trackable situations.  In the last presidential election Facebook selected 60 million users which is just a portion of their total number of users and added election content to the top of the Facebook page.  They put a notice saying that it was election day and gave a link to find your local polling location.  It was determined that this created a measurable increase in polling turn out.

The big question that was posed was is it ethical for social media to use its algorithms and content to control peoples choices and access to information.  Would it be ethical to change the algorithms during the Ferguson riots to show more pictures of cats or any humorous content and reducing the amount of news stories and videos of burning buildings.

I don’t think enough social media users understand how the social media sites have the ability to control information.  While I do think there is the potential to really reduce violence in the case of the riots.  There are a significant number of social media users that use Facebook and its variety of reliable and not so reliable news sources as their only source for information.  It is a very common occurrence to see one of my friends on Facebook like a clearly fake news article.

The last significant issue with control of algorithms is control of information and censorship.  It is a very delicate and complicated issue.  While some censorship can be beneficial to a groups general wellbeing, it is not in everyones best interest to not hear both sides to every story.  It is scary that social media sites can make decisions to sway things like politics.  We need to remember that many social media sites are businesses.  While most users don’t have to pay for their services, many businesses do and this generates significant income for the company.  I am not implying that all social media sites would take money to sway voters etc but it is within the realm of possibility.

Relationship between technical communication and social media

There is a strong relationship between technical communication and social media. In the article Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing students for Technical Communication in the age of social media the authors discuss that link between social media and technical communication is heightened due to the number of internet users and increased availability of social media. They also discuss that 247 million Americans have internet access. The new found access to social media in recent years has increased the amount of internet users who are exposed to technical communication. However I think a significant amount of the original content found on social media doesn’t follow the implied rules of technical communication. Many posts are not clear or to the point. Many posts are not original content to begin with. A lot of writers of social media content don’t consider the audience either. The content may just be for themselves. A lot of the content of social media has nothing to do with anything technical. There is a clear connection between social media and technical writing. But there are many examples that show how some social media doesn’t follow the definition of technical communication.

Blogging Experience and Literacy

I haven’t had a lot of experience working with blogs. When I was in high school in a web design class we designed the graphic side of a blog. We had to make a blog but it was really focused on design and presentation not in the content of the blog. That was the only experience I’ve had with writing a blog.

I have read a number of blogs on a variety of topics. I feel that blogging is a balance of content and design. Both aspects are equally important in my eyes. It can be hard to hold a readers attention without an eye catching and easy to read design.

The article I have picked to react to is the 16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners article. Overall I have a positive reaction to the article. It does seem like it is focused more on blogs that are meant to make a profit or for a business instead of ones for educational content.

Some of the tips given in the article that I found valuable were being consistent, giving away your knowledge and being true to your voice. All three of these ideas help develop the blogs value and increase the reliability of your content.

Some of the tips that I didn’t find to be helpful in an educational blogging setting were give give away stuff, give your email list priority, and keep it short. These tips may work in some situations but may have less value in an educational setting. Especially keep it short. Being consistent and concise is important but after reading the description of our blogging prompts for the rest of the semester we will need more than a minute or two of reading which was the recommendation in the article.