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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Computer Tip: Don't write it down...at least, not yet

Listen to the audio version of this tip!

How do you approach computer training...or any training for that matter? Are you a hands-on doer? A Note-taker? A Watcher?

Everyone has a different way of learning. Some gather information best via their eyes; others; their ears. Some do it via touch and muscle memory.

While I highly recommend finding whatever way works best for you, I have found one method that seems to detract from the learning experience more than it helps. Some of my clients insist on writing down every single step when we are working through a task. Now, in some regards, note-taking can help to fix things in the mind. I know this true for me. Whenever I was taking a test in school, the answer usually appeared as a picture of a particular location on a particular page. The act of writing fixed a mental image that was very hard to dislodge.

That said, trying to write out procedures step-by-step can have several detrimental effects. First, it focuses the student on the minutia of click here, click OK, select My Documents, instead of giving them the big picture of how the computer works as a whole. I can understand the students desire to have something concrete in hand once I leave, but they are limiting themselves. All it takes is one small deviation from the norm...a minor error message...a changed default...an unfamiliar term to stop them in their tracks. Since they have absorbed only the steps and not the process, they often have no idea what to do next.

Writing down every step also slows the training process and removes any sense of "flow". Instead of taking in a concept in one whole, they must stop and start to keep up with the speed of their handwriting.

So, what to do? The next best method of retaining and reviewing training, besides applying it as soon after you learn it as possible, is to record the training session in audio or video. I have several clients who regularly record our sessions and then replay them in the car or anywhere else they have time. The inclusion of video enhances the process even more. You could also use screen capture software, such as TechSmith's Camtasia, to record the entire training session to a movie that the user can play back, complete with audio any time they wish. Then, they can go back and take notes at their leisure.

The next time you're inclined to try and write down every step of a procedure, see if you can forgo it, or use a bit of the technology around your house to record it for later review. I think you'll find that your learning and your training experience will improve dramatically.

Listen to the audio version of this tip!

Do you have a question or comment on this or other computer questions? Email them to myword@welchwrite.com or post them as comments using the Comments link below.

Link: Previous items on training at WelchWrite.com
Link: TechSmith's Camtasia Web Site
Link: Computer Training Resources from Amazon.com
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