So for Christmas I bought my Mum a computer book from a very well known (slightly insultingly titled) series of books that allegedly make computing simple. Absolutely 100% up to date, with everything about how to make her Apple Mac do exactly what she wants. Initially the gift was well received, but from conversations I had, it appeared to be draining. Too much, and perhaps not written the way normal people read or talk. In the same way if someone bought me a ladybird book about gardening or er, ladybirds, regardless of how well it was written, I'd likely struggle after page 4. It lacked engagement.
I am very privileged to teach and support in 2 schools in sunny North Wales. With groups of both 6-10 year old's starting out with computers for the first time, and more mature teachers, some of whom are totally stuck in their traditional ways of using a computer. Both groups of computer users, make similar mistakes though, fall into the same pitfalls, or simply don't know, easier ways of doing things.
They may not understand why certain actions result in disappointment or frustration.
So, I've written a book, the first draft is definitely finished, but the title might need some work. It's currently called 'How To Be Relatively Good With Computers'. It's a mere 48 pages, so can be read in an evening and will be just enough to help people use computers more effectively.
We start without a Jargon buster section. If we're talking computers, I need to talk in language we all understand. I try my best to recognise when and why frustrations occur and recommend practical workarounds to either negate or avoid them altogether, while still being able to get what people want done. I've focused on the work that is just outside of people's comfort zones, having come to the conclusion that most of us are now proficient with email and Facebook (or simply don't use our computers much for those activities anyway), for example if work or a club people attend ask them to create something, a newsletter, or poster, or a report. What about all their 'Stuff' too, all their photos, songs and valuable files? How do we manage these issues competently? Well, some people find those tasks pretty enjoyable, for others, they're a right real pain in the posterior and motivation enough to launch their laptop across the living room. The irony here is that there are dozens of ways, that have been around for over 20 years, that are so handy that they're almost exactly the same on Mac and PC, quite often they will use the same keyboard shortcuts, or the same behaviour in a program (like double tapping a word to select it, instead of clicking and dragging before making it bold or italic, or discovering why sentences sometimes start to eat themselves if they're edited incorrectly) it's worth gathering all these tips together to form the basis of a book, (or perhaps form the basis of future lesson plans for people of all ages). Not an overloaded bang up to date book with tips that might change with the next software update, but a collection of all of the 20 plus years old tips. The ones that are still mystical to so many that will likely stick around for years to come.
What are the things that make these activities less painful? That's what the book is all about. Everyday useful tips that will help make using a computer more pleasurable and make them feel, relatively competent.
So far, the feedback has been really positive, Pam said:
"OK Alan....you just made me what I have always wanted...an easy to understand IT bible"
"This is so good! Really easy and clear to follow"
"Excellent, something I wish I had 8 years ago"
"there are some excellent tips in here"
I've also had some support from an old, (published) Geography teacher of mine who is currently giving it the once over. So, it's almost finished, it just needs a front cover and then I'll be publishing it to Amazon very shortly and if you've any suggestions or frustrations you'd like including for the follow up book, 'How To Be A Bit Better With Computers' let me know.
Watch this space.
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