ways to help new computer users

“Once upon a time, young people helped senior citizens across the street. While this is still a good idea, it’s just as important to help them setup their Facebook page.”

This short article makes a few points very well. Many novice tech users are experts in other things and get easily frustrated feeling like they’re back at square one. That sort of thing needs to be considered when you’re figuring out the best way to approach teaching topics. Additionally, find ways for people to succeed, whatever their level of skill is. This can be a challenge for people who are really brand new, but just having simple taks like mouse proficency and “send an email to me. Oh look there it is” can give peopel the confidence they need to explore on their own. [thanks barbara]

5 thoughts on “ways to help new computer users

  1. Thanks for sharing this – it seems to me (being a student in library school) that this should be a service that is offered to patrons in libraries now. I can’t begin to count the times that I have heard people generally unfamiliar with the internet say, “I wish I had a facebook so I could keep in contact with my kids.” Of course, this could be from someone who is totally unfamiliar with the internet, or someone who is fairly proficient – but has reservations about the content/networking features of facebook. If libraries are going to offer this type of service, they really need to meet their patrons where they are – tailor classes to more and less experienced internet users, and try to avoid the blanket (trying to offer one thing for everyone in a class) approach I see often.

  2. this is a great piece. thank you for posting about it. i do think it misses one detail w/r/t the couple who became irritated with each other as the gentleman half tried to log into their gmail account.

    could the gentleman type?

    can we remember what it was like when *we* couldn’t type?

    i had a math class in junior high back in the 70’s where we wrote 10 lines of basic, and then had 10 minutes each on the teletype terminal in a closet off of our classroom. my school did a (spendy!) timeshare on a mainframe computer that resided in a downtown office building. guess what the quality was of our experience, we 7th graders, with our 10 minutes? *none of us could type*. it took *forever* to type in our little 10 lines of code — and it had to be exactly correct or it wouldn’t run. some of us never even finished typing the code.

    anyway. point being, the keyboarding aspect of anything computer-related is a *huge* source of frustration for anyone who lacks keyboarding skills. my father-in-law became so frustrated that he ultimately spent most of his online time browsing — clicking to navigate sites that interested him — because the need to type was reduced. my mother-in-law just dumbed down entirely, and used the computer very little, because as a retired secretary she could type like the very wind; a formerly ‘menial’ skill (she had been my father-in-law’s secretary at one point) that suddenly made my father-in-law feel stupid. when both of them tried to learn computer skills simultaneously.. well, it had a really bad effect on the dynamics of their relationship.

    so i would suggest also considering orientation to the user-interface of a solid learn-to-type program. it can be done in private, and i know the old ‘mavis beacon’ program was a lot like a video game. my dad thought it was fun, and used it just to test himself, even though he could already type.

  3. Thanks for posting the link and commentary, Jessamyn! I have done a lot of helping colleagues at university over the last couple of years (I’m a newly minted Library Tech), explaining things like why clicking the ‘Home’ tab in MSWord won’t bring up Google. There is a heck of a lot of fear holding back most of the people I’ve encountered who are having the hardest of times. Helping folks have positive (or at least, non-scary) experiences is the best thing I’ve found for it.

    If anyone has any other links to share of a similar vein, or other suggested reading, please post up or email me at tamahoc/gmail.com.

  4. Great article, I do believe that we need to start being more proactive in these matters. all it takes is a little bit of patience and willingness to help them become sufficient.
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