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Jordan: Digital Resolution

01/06/12 7:55AM By Helen Labun Jordan
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(Host) Commentator Helen Labun Jordan spent 2011 working on digital literacy with the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project - and that's shaped some of her expectations for the year to come.

(Labun Jordan) I know what it's like to be desperate for high speed Internet. A few years ago, I was running a home office on dial up. I paid $600 for a Satellite connection that didn't work in the rain or after 6 pm. My old house just got connected this summer.

Other people are not desperate for high speed Internet.

In fact, half of the people who turn down a subscription say that they don't see its relevance to their lives. Lack of interest is tied with cost as the top reason why people don't subscribe to high speed Internet when it's available.

That statistic isn't surprising if you consider how hard it is to get into the habit of using a new tool or new technology in our daily lives.

I'm a prime example.

The other day, I had dinner at a friend's house. While we cooked his son showed off a new app for retrieving lyrics to a song after hearing a few bars of it. We tested it with Born in the USA.

At dinner, my friend tried unsuccessfully to remember the words to "Baby Beluga" that come before "Is your mama home?" If this were an iPhone commercial we would have immediately put that new app to good use. In reality, I'd already forgotten about it. And my friend's son certainly wasn't going to offer up a way to help us torture him with singing Raffi's greatest hits.

The answer, if you're curious, is "Is the water warm?" I looked it up later.

There are lots of useful, online things I know I'm overlooking - things like the entire existence of Twitter. But there's a difference between being slow to adopt a particular tool and not seeing the Internet 's relevance. For people in the latter camp, the world is going to be forcing that relevance on them.

Look at what's already changed. Employers from state government to Wal-Mart now require online job applications. Standardized tests, including the GED, are going online. Family members like me rely on e-mail or Facebook to stay in touch. Even members of the Occupy Wall Street movement have started bickering over meetings that are announced only online.

Here's where the lyrics to Baby Beluga come back into play. It is a lot - a lot - less stressful to practice using online tools for something fun like song lyrics than for something essential like getting a job.

There are plenty of opportunities to get familiar with the Internet when it's a choice and not a necessity, to get driving directions, check sports scores, send out party invitations, locate the best winter hiking. . . whatever your New Year's resolution may be, there's an online tool that can make it easier. And friends, family, coworkers, your public library can all help with that connection.

Within the next two years Vermont will have made high speed Internet available to everyone. Within the next two years I hope that everyone will also know how to use it.
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