Unfortunately, this isn’t a post about some fantastic new touchscreen technology. Nor is it about a rodent on my monitor, though that would be an amusing prank. (Remind me to try that one next April 1st.)
No, it’s a story a colleague in the training industry relayed to me about an enterprise effort to train food service employees. Apparently, new computer-based training was deployed to the field, and an executive reviewed the best and worst experiences those line-level employees had while using the new training. The worst thing reported? One learner tried putting the computer mouse on the screen to use it. In other words, being forced to use PC-based training revealed that the employee had no familiarity with what a mouse is for or how it works. None at all.
Now before you fall down laughing and start retelling stories about “cup holders” being broken by users, I want you to know this is certainly not the first time I’ve heard this sort of thing. During the 6.5 years I’ve spent writing my book, I have been told a number of similar stories. One friend mentioned how he just couldn’t get his mother to understand how to use a mouse. Another colleague who teaches basic computer skills at a community college said she’s seen an adult learner try to use a mouse as a foot pedal. A friend who used to be a teacher told me of an adult student who picked the mouse up off the desk to try to make the pointer on the screen move up. The list goes on and on. These stories are part of what drove me to write a basic PC skills book. Many tend to assume lack of PC understanding is a “problem” that pertains to senior citizens only. (And oftentimes, the “problem” is assumed to be their problem… like some sort of ineptitude or deficiency.) But this is not an issue with age. “Old folks” are not the “problem.” In this fellow’s case, I’m guessing he simply never worked in a field where he had to rely on PC skills. Or perhaps he had to come out of retirement early due to the collapse of the investment market, finding himself in a strange new technology-centric workplace… even in food service. It’s really not funny. But it really is common.
I’m sure you know someone like this. Maybe it’s your mom or dad. Maybe they readily admit they can’t understand their computer. Or maybe they’re “using” one, but faking it…just getting by. Or maybe they’ve already given up, thinking they’re too stupid to really understand computing. Feel free to share your experience here.
And for those who can identify — who have tried to support a new or struggling user — let me leave you with some encouragement. Within 4 weeks, The Ultimate PC Primer will be available. (I’m hoping for more like 3 weeks, in time for Mother’s Day.) If you know someone who doesn’t quite have the grasp of core computing concepts he or she needs to succeed, I encourage you to give it a try. I spent 6.5 years thinking of them, making their “problem” my problem to solve. It’s my hope that by helping them, I help you, too.