Keeping up to date with digital: Part 1

We have a problem

How can freelance ELT writers and editors keep up to date with digital writing tools and platforms, so that when a job opportunity comes up and the publisher needs someone with experience in a specific authoring tool more of us can apply?

Unique skills, unique gaps

The thing about technology is that we all have a very personal skills set of what we can use with confidence and other areas where our knowledge is left wanting. This isn’t just true for ELT writers and editors. It’s the case for everyone. Because usually we learn how to use something when we discover we have a need for it. And if you are like me, the way we learn best is by playing around with whatever it is we’re trying to master, until things fall into place, maybe referring to How to videos or articles and maybe signing up for a short course. Courses aren’t usually effective for me unless I can revisit things and spend time practicing, but a course is handy if you have a tutor who is available to answer questions.

Access denied

I started writing digital materials for ELT soon after I started writing print materials. The first authoring tool I used was Moodle. I’m not naturally tech-minded, so I found it a challenge (to say the least). But I had the opportunity to attend a face-to-face course with an extremely patient tutor. The best thing about the course was that I was given access to a Moodle sand pit where I could play at my heart’s content until I mastered each aspect of the platform. Later I learnt how to use new authoring tools, each one very similar to the last but with the usual range of activity types and improvements that came about as technology itself got better and better. But always within a Publisher’s domain and with access denied the minute the product was complete.

Please let us in!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have access to all of the Publishers’ authoring tools with their sand pits so that we could learn the special features of each one and teach ourselves how to use them. Right now this isn’t possible but wouldn’t it be in the Publishers’ interest to offer such access to freelancers? Then, when they put out an advert for a new job opportunity, they’d have a larger pool of experienced digital writers and editors to choose from.How can we make this happen? Could it be as simple as asking a Publisher to let us in? Do we need to work together to ask for this? Can we share our communal knowledge? I’ve called this blog post Part 1 in the hope that I can come back at some point in the not-too-distant future with some answers. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. And I’d especially love to hear from Publishers.