How not to teach

In a previous post, I concluded that I can teach others computing. Yes, I can even if they have never seen or turned on a computer. This wasn’t always the case.

Teaching computers

My first computer was an IBM clone (This is what they called them back in the early 1980s). I had an i286 with 512Kb RAM and a 40Mb. It was a low-end computer when I purchased it in 1991, but for me a newbie. I thought it was fine. It took me awhile to clue in, but once I realized that they were empty machines without the software. I quickly caught on (Remember, these were the days of the DOS prompt and Windows running as a shell and not as an operating system).

After a few months of playing with the computer, my brother asked me to teach him some stuff. I agreed and I sat down and showed him. Since, I had been acquainted with the system I moved quickly and never fully explained what I was doing. THIS IS NOT HOW TO TEACH ANYONE. I am afraid I scared him off for good.

Since then, I have had to tutor classmates through mandatory courses of the programs we enrolled in. I did so and successfully too; I might add. The trick you see is to start at the beginning or consider the person ignorant to the topic you are trying to teach. Also, and this is the key to teaching computers/computing never sit in front of a computer to teach another person computing. Instead sit the. “student” (for want of a better word) down in front of the computer and state each step in the procedure to procure the desired results (complete the desire computing task) and repeat until they have mastered that skill, and then add on to what was learnt adding a new next associated task. For example: Turning off and on a computer, next creating a file, next working on the file, next saving the file, et cetera, et cetera. Now, I know people what you are thinking, “What if I already know the basics?” If that is the case, then teach them from where they are at. Ask questions to determine what they do and do not know, then start from there.

Come to think of it now, over the years, I dragged a few fellow students through my high school/college courses through mandatory credit courses with the promise never to take the course in question again. In some ways, I should have heeded my own advice and changed majors at university.

Live and learn.
—Robert Confiant 15 August 2018

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