Thursday, July 09, 2009

I was in a book shop the other day and was amazed to see six shelves in the Computing section filled with "Dummies" books. Six shelves worth!

Cool Myspace Generators

I occurred to me that there is something far wrong with a technology that makes so many people feel like a dummy because they can't use it.

Douglas Adams said:
"We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. How do you recognise something that is still technology? A good clue is if it comes with a manual"
Not only do computers still have to come with a manual, but there are huge numbers of supplementary manuals that you can buy when they make you feel like a dummy! Surely that's not a good sign?


David Gilmour said...

And that's just the Computing section. Wander elsewhere in the shop, though, and you'll find Dummies books on just about anything. (I've just shocked myself by browsing the list. John Paul II for Dummies, anyone?)

So it's not just a technology thing. Unless there's something about JPII we haven't been told.

Maybe the bigger problem is that so many people don't mind identifying themselves as "dummies", just because they don't know something? Might be interesting to hear Carol Dweck's view on that one!

John said...

Reminds me of the oft quoted:
"Communication tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring." - Clay Shirky

Maybe the way we teach the use of computers is wrong, most how-tos are a step by step guide, we need to teach children & teachers how to open different apps and figure out how to use them.

David said...

Hello David

I know there are Dummies books for many subjects (although John Paul II for Dummies is a bit of a surprise!). However, my shock was at the huge number of Computing related books "For Dummies". Computing seemed to have more than all the other sections put together.

When I can't get a computer to do something, I tend to blame the technology, not myself.

Hello John

I think you are right. For years I have complained about worksheets that are used in computing - the assumption is, that since the pupils have produced something by the end of the lesson, they must have learned stuff but perhaps all they have learned is how to follow instructions. Where is the challenge? Where is the problems solving?

I believe problem solving is at the heart of Computing and that we need to challenge pupils in order to make Computing interesting.

Kenneth... said...

Watch this scene from Grosse Point Blank.

Is this a trained response or creative problem solving?

Kenneth... said...

An alternative perspective is that most people perpetuate the myth that using or learning to use computers/technology is easy. A Curriculum for Excellence and the majority of technology evangelists are responsible for promoting this mythology.

I want learners to understand how the technology works and have the skills to read the "Dummies" books to help them use the technology.

I know people who have learned ICT form a hobbyist perspective. They blame the technology (software & hardware) when they lack the knowledge or understanding as to how to use the technology properly or effectively. They often know they want to do something (result) but don't know how to do it (process). That's when I get the call, LOL, or they turn to the "Dummies" book.

Computing/ICT/Technologies is a complex and challenging domain of knowledge: which we should be exploring and researching and promoting.

David said...

Hello Kenneth

Not sure what point you are making with the fight scene. It's impressive but I would go for this one from Bourne (which also features some creative uses for a pen!).

If you are talking about screen fighting, obviously theses are heavily choreographed. A set of moves are learned, rehearsed and reproduced. No room at all for creativity. Absolutely following a set of instructions.

If however you are talking about "real" fighting, I think it is a mixture of both. When my daughters were learning karate, they had to practice kata which to my untrained eye looked like dance moves... until they explained what they were doing: "This bit is where you break their nose and this bit is where you snap their arm..." As you move up through the grades and start sparring, I must admit I couldn't see the gracefulness and beauty that was evident in the katas but I guess it was the repetition and practice of the list of steps that allowed the creative problem solving in fights to take place: "Their doing that, so I'll block like this and then counter attack like that..."

I'm not saying lists of instructions are unimportant, perhaps they are an important first step but they should be the means to an end rather than the end itself.

David said...

Hello again Kenneth

"...most people perpetuate the myth that using or learning to use computers/technology is easy."

I think that's exactly what I've been arguing against when challenging people who say we don't need Computing teachers because "everybody can do ICT already." This still is touted around by people who ought to know better yet it's obviously rubbish - the number of "Dummies" books alone gives the lie to that one! The constantly changing and rapidly developing nature of ICT means that we need to teach Computing (so that people understand what's going on) not just ICT.

However, I'm not sure I entirely agree with your second point. I like to think I have the knowledge and understanding on how to use the technology properly and effectively, but I still blame the technology at times because it still gets it wrong! When the technology makes something difficult that should be easy - it's the technology that should be considered dumb, not the user.