“You young people just understand these computers so easily. How did you learn all of this? I just don’t understand any of it. I’m determined to go take a class.”
This was a conversation that I had with my mother just a few weeks ago.
“I don’t know, Mom, I just learned it.”
“No, but did you take a class in university? Or somewhere else?”
“No, I don’t remember taking a class …”
She looked at me skeptically. “Well, I’m taking a class. I. am. taking. a. class,” she said with such determination, I wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince me, or herself.
But I was telling the truth, I really don’t really know how I learned to be comfortable on a computer. I do remember taking a programming class in university (in BASIC language, and if that doesn’t date me, I don’t know what does). I also remember learning how to use a piece of software called Lotus 123, which was sort of a precursor to Microsoft Excel. I even remember teaching myself how to type — properly type — on an old desktop PC that my father had loaned me while I was in law school, that happened to have some sort of cheap teach-yourself-how-to-type software loaded on it.
But I don’t remember any formal training on anything resembling the kinds of computers that I use nowadays — my learnings just sort of evolved like the computer, you know? I mean, you learn how to make a word in italics in 1980’s WordPerfect, and it becomes sort of intuitive to know how to make the same word italicized in 2011 Microsoft Word (or 2011 blogging platforms like WordPress, for example). As you become proficient on one piece of software, it emboldens you to learn another. At least, that’s how it feels for me.
I mentioned before that my husband and I were going to formally introduce our daughter Alex to the computer, and we’re doing so. But the truth is, that at the age of 7, Alex has already had some exposure to using a computer — at school, sitting waiting for us at the computer store, or other places. She already knows how to use a mouse, and what it means to “minimize” and “maximize” a window. So I can’t help but believe that learning the use of technology in her lifetime is going to feel just as evolutionary for her.
I wonder if she’ll end up outlearning me at some point? Not that I wouldn’t be eternally grateful, but I wouldn’t want her to experience the mild sensation of futility I feel when I try to teach my own mom about email.
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