Breaking Down Resistance

Here’s a piece i missed from the International Herald Tribune by Phyllis Korkki that does a great job of looking at the problems that people increasingly face: technology. Not everyone likes it or understands it, and it’s not easy for them to find out how to do what they need to do. Here are a couple of snippets I particularly liked:

If you are uncomfortable around new technology, you may be learning at a “keystroke level” instead of a conceptual level, said Deborah Compeau, associate professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. 

Fearful learners “want to have a piece of paper that tells them what buttons to push in what order,” she said. This leaves them unprepared for errors and impasses, which are inevitable.

This is true; I’ve been working on these kind of crib sheets for some time now, and I’m not sure they are always the best way for people to learn. It’s like a map through a maze that doesn’t contain any paths beyond the route you’re supposed to take: no use you if you take a wrong turn and get lost.

Talking of which, Compeau points to what I think is the best approach in getting ideas across:

A good teacher creates analogies that make it easier for nontechnical thinkers to understand how a system works; for example, by comparing a hard drive to a filing cabinet, and directories to the drawers of the cabinet, she said.

This is what I’ve tried to do in my WSJ.com column (which comes to an end at the end of this month, sadly.) It’s not always easy to find the right analogy, and they don’t always work, but I suspect it’s the best approach.

Have a good holiday.

Tips for the tech-averse – Print Version – International Herald Tribune

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21. December 2007 by jeremy
Categories: Productivity, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. Sorry to hear your WSJ column is ending. I think you and James Fallows do a great job of explaining the functions of various software and making it applicable to everyone, not just techies.

  2. Speaking of analogies, was once explaining RAM to a non-tech friend, heer toilet was also clogged up for days already.

    Asked her to think of RAM as that little skinny toilet pipe which was responsible for letting everything pass through to go to where they’re supposed to!

    I wish I’d read more of your stuff and am actually thinking to get your book.

  3. I admit I still dont have a facebook account