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Don’t forget to bring a pen to computer class!

September 2, 2011

If the above title does not make sense to you then we are off to a good start.  First and foremost I am writing this during my lunch hour, and if you know anything about me then you know that me missing a meal is as common as a lunar eclipse over a triple rainbow in front of the Loch Ness Monster.  But I feel that this post deserves it.

I have been training teachers how to use programs for the past 3 years and I have found that usually the most seasoned teachers are the ones who have the hardest time picking it up and understanding the different programs.  This is not for a lack of trying.  I just think sometimes the method they use is one that rarely works.

When I train teachers who have been in the game for 15+ years the first thing they do is whip out their pens and notebooks…and then I cringe.  I try to do my best taking them step by step through whatever process we are working on and more times then not they only feel comfortable if they are feverishly writing down everything I say.

Now when it is their turn to do it on their own, they refer to their notes like a treasure map trying to navigate the screen with failed clicks, drags, etc.  This usually leads me to repeating the steps and more writing. Why do this?  Think about it.  After a master musician learns how to play a song how often do they reread their music?  After a master chef puts together an amazing meal how often do they go over their recipe again?  Well if you want to be a master teacher and really learn the technology that surrounds you why are you handcuffing yourself to a piece of paper?

It’s funny, today I gave a teacher a print out that had screenshots of all the steps, even labeling what each feature was, etc, and asked her to try it on her own so she might be able to better understand the process.  She cast it aside and told me it was too “busy”…so I went step by step as she wrote everything I said.  What she ended with was something I think even Will Hunting would struggle to understand.

People, especially teachers are always saying that the kids know the technology the best.  Why is that?  :::Here comes a common response::: “Because it is the times they were born in!”  I don’t buy it, that’s an excuse, they still have to learn the technology, they are not born with the knowledge of how to send send a tweet, create a podcast, or even how to turn the computer on…someone has to teach it to them and it is often themselves.  I have yet to read any informatuon that says we are evolving so quickly that children are now born with a better sense of technology.  They’re not.  We all have to learn it.

Okay, I think I was starting to rant and trust me I understand that you might not be comfortable without taking notes because when you grew up, when I grew up, that’s really how we were taught…through note taking.  But it simply doesn’t work with technology.  Use a marathon runner for example.  When they train they don’t just run 1 mile every day and expect that in a few months they can go out and run 26.2.  They build up to it.  So lets compromise.  First ditch the notebook and pen the next time you want to learn something to do with the computer whether it’s a program your school uses to grade or putting together an iMovie.  What I suggest to bridge the gap is to learn how use and take screenshots.  Technology is visual and physical so if you need a piece of paper in front of you to start take a screenshot and put your “notes” on their.  For those that do not know, a screenshot is exactly what it sounds like, a picture of your screen.  When I do trainings I always supply teachers with screenshots of all steps.  Less words more pictures.  I might circle a few things or make a few notes or even write out different steps, but they are always accompanied by a screenshot.  Since you would get fired if you wrote on the computer monitor this is the next best thing.  The “notes” you will be looking at will look exactly the same as what’s on your screen.  Eventually you should ditch the screenshots and learn to teach yourself by trial and error…figuring out how to get from point A to point B with only your mouse and intuition to guide.  Then you will no longer be a slave to the notebook!

Taking screenshots on a MAC:

  • Command-Shift-3: Take a screenshot of the screen, and save it as a file on the desktop
  • Command-Shift-4, then select an area: Take a screenshot of an area and save it as a file on the desktop
  • Command-Shift-4, then space, then click a window: Take a screenshot of a window and save it as a file on the desktop
  • Command-Control-Shift-3: Take a screenshot of the screen, and save it to the clipboard
  • Command-Control-Shift-4, then select an area: Take a screenshot of an area and save it to the clipboard
  • Command-Control-Shift-4, then space, then click a window: Take a screenshot of a window and save it to the clipboard

Taking screen shots on a PC:

  • Pushing the PrtScrn key will take a picture of your entire screen and copy it to the clipboard
  • Holding Alt+PrntScrn will copy only the foremost image onto your clipboard

There are many free tools you can download to help with screenshots.

We were all born not knowing how to walk but we were able to teach ourselves.  Think of technology like learning to walk, first crawl, then take baby steps, then run with it!

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