Acquiring interface fluency means that one can operate virtually any device or software provided that they use common icons. Of course, the use of common icons across devices and platforms is still an emerging phenomenon, but for the most part, certain kinds of icons can be assumed to have similar functionality.
Let’s look some of the more common Google Apps for Education icons; in working with many new users I’ve noticed that an icon is nearly invisible (and therefore powerless) if one doesn’t know that the icon represents a larger set of commands (what we call a contextual menu).
Each of these, when touched or clicked, leads to more. If you see these in Google Drive (either in a browser or on a smartphone), use them to see more or conduct further action.
Other icons are used to control sharing and collaboration in Google. These are common:
|Share your screen with someone. Seen in Google Hangouts.||Share a document, folder, or other item. Available in most apps.||Share a thing (more diverse options).||Add a person, content, or item. Highly dependent on context.|
This is just the tip of the icon iceberg. Even if you’ve been using Google apps for a while, try clicking these to see what they do. To test your own literacy, try finding a web-based tool you’ve never used before and ask yourself: “Can I articulate what this icon will most likely do if I touch or click? How do I know?”
Interface literacy was a topic raised at a recent UAF eLearning faculty development event, iTeach2, in May. To find more opportunities for interesting discussions on topics like interface literacy, go to http://iteachu.uaf.edu/faculty-development.