Friday, September 10, 2010

Is talking about computers a different language?

Sometimes trying to help someone who is not very comfortable around computers is frustrating for both sides.  There are things that I take for granted when I am explaining how to do something over the phone.  When I pay attention I can almost see the person on the other side just nodding their head and giving me the occasional "yes" or "uh-huh".  I have to remember to slow down and do a better job of explaining.  In education we have our own language with all kinds of abbreviations, acronyms, and words that appear confusing to those outside of our profession.  ICT is no different.

This is something that we really need to remember before we condemn someone for not being tech literate in this day and age.  There are all kinds of words and terminology that are nonsensical to an outsider.  USBs, ports, Ethernet, fire wire, firewall, source, Google, Delicious, Wikis, Blogs...  I wonder if a big part of the solution is removing the fear by explaining what the different parts are.  I know how I feel when watching figure skating in the Olympics and they are talking about the different jumps.  What is the difference between a lutz and a salchow?  I have problems telling the difference between doubles and triples and quadruples.  I can tell if they wabble but if it weren't for the announcers I would have no clue.

 We need to remember who our audience is.  What is the probable knowledge base?  It might even be worthwhile doing a KWL (another education acronym) and see what they know.  What do they need to know?  Watch the lingo and watch the audience.  I fear to often we make too many assumptions in these presentations and scare them off.  I am not making excuses for those who are unwilling.  I have to figure that if my grandfather, when he turned 80 (around 10 years ago) can buy a computer for video-digital editing and make home movies, then there is little or no excuse other than a lack of willingness.

If we want them to join the parade and be a part of 21st century learning then we do have to respect their fears and uncertainty, otherwise they feel as though they are being treated as pariahs.  I have not met a teacher who is unwilling, only uncertain as to how and where to begin and this should be our starting point.

This is an email that was sent to me that resonates this idea.  Are we talking a different language?

*Subject:* Abbott and Costello Buying a Computer.  You have to be old enough to remember Abbott and Costello, and too old to REALLY understand computers, to fully appreciate this. For those of us who sometimes get flustered by our computers, please read on...

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, 'Who's on First?' might have turned out something like this: /

*/ABBOTT: /*/Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?*

COSTELLO: *Thanks I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer. *

ABBOTT: *Mac?*

COSTELLO: *No, the name's Lou.*

ABBOTT: *Your computer?*

COSTELLO*: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.*

ABBOTT: *Mac?*

COSTELLO: *I told you, my name's Lou.*

ABBOTT: *What about Windows? *

COSTELLO: *Why? Will it get stuffy in here?*

ABBOTT: *Do you want a computer with Windows?*

COSTELLO: *I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?*

ABBOTT: *Wallpaper.*

COSTELLO: *Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.*

ABBOTT: *Software for Windows?*

COSTELLO: *No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?*

ABBOTT: *Office.*

COSTELLO: *Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?*

ABBOTT: *I just did.*

COSTELLO: *You just did what?*

ABBOTT: *Recommend something.*

COSTELLO: *You recommended something?*

ABBOTT: *Yes.*

COSTELLO: *For my office?*

ABBOTT: *Yes.*

COSTELLO: *OK, what did you recommend for my office?*

ABBOTT: *Office.*

COSTELLO: *Yes, for my office!*

ABBOTT: *I recommend Office with Windows.*

COSTELLO: *I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need? *

ABBOTT: *Word.*

COSTELLO: *What word?*

ABBOTT: *Word in Office.*

COSTELLO: *The only word in office is office.*

ABBOTT: *The Word in Office for Windows.*

COSTELLO: *Which word in office for windows?*

ABBOTT: *The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.*

COSTELLO: *I'm going to click your blue 'w' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?*

ABBOTT: *Money.*

COSTELLO: *That's right. What do you have?*

ABBOTT: *Money.*

COSTELLO: *I need money to track my money?*

ABBOTT: *It comes bundled with your computer.*

COSTELLO: *What's bundled with my computer?*

ABBOTT: *Money.*

COSTELLO: *Money comes with my computer?*

ABBOTT: *Yes. No extra charge.*

COSTELLO: *I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?*

ABBOTT: *One copy.*

COSTELLO: *Isn't it illegal to copy money?*

ABBOTT: *Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.*

COSTELLO: *They can give you a license to copy money?*


(A few days later)

ABBOTT: *Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?*

COSTELLO: *How do I turn my computer off?*

ABBOTT: *Click on 'START'............./

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