Baby Steps

baby-218193_640Who is the best person to support new users of a tool or technique? An expert? Or a person who just learned themselves?

Our department needed to interview a candidate in the US. I was asked to set up Skype for the interview. After that, another department needed the same thing. I explained how it was done, going so far as to show the person from the other department how to set up a Skype connection.

I consider using Skype as something that is pretty self evident. But the people asking did not. I had to readjust my thinking and zoom in on each step to make them comfortable. And that lead me to consider a few things, primary among them the question above. Was I the best person to be advising?

Granted, baby steps are the best way to ramp up difficulties in skill development, but isn’t creating a need and providing the Fine Manual for the learner to Read a better option?

Not only the expert issue, I started wondering about a cultural differences in tech support. The expectation I often find among my students is that if not every step is exhaustingly described, demonstrated, and checked at every level, they feel something is amiss.

There is no effort to look behind the process, no felt need to learn how things work, and how to take processes apart and put them back together again. Teaching very similar processes 3 or 4 times, I tend to start using shorthand I hope had developed during previous iterations of the activity. Oftentimes this leads to confusion, especially among students with low motivation and/or critical thinking skills, but does not correlate at all with intelligence or linguistic skills in the target language.

Something to explore.


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