Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – The Many Ways to Learn and Teach

As an instructor, I’m constantly trying to think of effective methods for retention of our subject matter. In doing so, it causes me to examine my own methods of learning. I would classify myself as an audio-based learner for some material and an exploratory learner for others. I will only occasionally open a manual or readme file if I need to learn a specific function. There’s also a great deal of Googling going on these days. In fact, my new slogan is: Go to Google! I should probably copyright that.

In my 18-year career as an Assistive Technology Instructor, I’ve seen the entire spectrum of learning styles. My team and I have worked with students who take notes on their own and catch on quickly and require very little assistance. We’ve also experienced students who, no matter how you phrase it or provide notes in an accessible format, still require intense practice. It is the reason we ask if potential students have access to a computer. If they don’t, we strongly recommend they take advantage of our practice lab.

Learning always requires an open and flexible mind. The computer, as anything else, has its quirks and it’s going to do things that you don’t expect. Having used a computer steadily since 1988, trust me, I’ve experienced some truly bizarre behavior. Had I given up, I wouldn’t have my challenging, yet rewarding, position.

I just completed reading “Never Going Back” by Al Roker, the famous Weatherman on the NBC network. He admitted to complaining vociferously throughout his daily workouts. This reminds me of a former student who exhibited the same behavior. You’d have thought I was killing her with each keystroke. I discovered, though, that confronting her in a humorous manner caused her to calm down and she was, thankfully, able to learn some basic functions.

Someone should compose a song called “Ode to the Tab key” as we PC users press that key repeatedly in our computing lives. This was exactly how I learned to use an FTP (file transfer protocol) client this weekend. Asking for help from the person who recommended the program might have taken hours, since he lives in the United Kingdom. The answer found through Google was marginally useful, in that it offered the glimmer of an idea. Knowing that many applications are Tab friendly, I did just that. I also pressed the key some call the Application key or the Context key. This offered two important options and before I knew it, my files were uploaded and I was sporting a satisfied grin.

If you need or want to learn a new subject, be patient with yourself, take notes, and persevere. Perhaps I should revisit my Spanish lessons.

How do you help yourself or others learn a new subject?

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