About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Getting older workers to learn off of each other

I recently spent some time with my sister, a former science teacher who now does teacher training. I was helping her to load and try out new technology that she can integrate onto her computer. We are only 3 years apart, yet when working with her, she felt we were from different generations. "You at least have an understanding of the computer system and how it works. I just can't conceptualize it," she told me.

Part of the difference, when discussing it with her, was that I took computer courses in college (BASIC, and later for my MBA in International Business, a number of computer based programs for logistics and decision making on both mainframes and pc's). She felt that because she did not have a formal education in those areas, it is harder for her to figure out how to use the computers.

However, in speaking with her, we came to the conclusion that many older workers feel they need someone with "expertise" to talk them through a technology. Younger workers and students feel very comfortable asking others how to do things when it interests them (as opposed to only learning it when it is mandated). Rarely do older workers talk about what they can do or offer to show someone else how to do something unless they feel "qualified". I am not sure why, perhaps having lived abroad for some many years and relying on others to give me insight, but I have never felt shy about working with someone on how to figure things out. I am irritated with my children when they will "do" something for me (like put in names to my address book) rather than show me how to do it (as they will with each other).

I wonder, therefore, if we should be developing training differently between generations.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

I can identify with what you say, though I can't really offer much advice.

I was a computer trainer for 5 years in the late 80s to early 90s. I was self taught. I got that job more from sheer wit than initial skill with a computer - I had to learn a lot very quickly.

I trained typists, managers, CEOs and other computer users (at that time they were a category!)

One thing I found about typists, young or old, was their reluctance to let go of practices they'd used on typewriters - what you'd expect I guess. Despite their familiarity with keyboards they were died-in-the-wool typewriter users and I had to 'unteach' what they saw as perfectly good habits. I had a lot of fun with this.

Another observation I made was that young people used the suck-it-and-see approach, whereas older people would not touch a key until they were told to. And instructions had to be specific or they would just sit and smile and do nothing.

So in a way they were like your sister. They had faith in me as a trainer and did what they were told to do and nothing else for fear of the machine blowing up or something worse. This was a misconception that many had.

But since I too was an older person, I realised that I also had hang-ups. The first hang-up I managed to dispel in part was introducing the suck-it-and-see approach to my array of methods of finding out how things work on the computer. I still use this. But often I have to force myself, for the fear I had initially has never really gone away. Funny that :-)

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

V Yonkers said...

Like you, I have to force myself to try out new things...although I find I go into it kicking and screaming.

Your comment reminds me of the "fosilization" that comes in language learning. Once the patterns are established (and in foreign language learning that could be the "wrong" pattern), it takes more to "unlearn" the pattern and relearn a new one.

This is the main difference between "training" and teaching at the university level (especially for younger students). In training, there is an added layer of "unlearning" old patterns which I don't think many trainers recognize.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

What a great point you make about the difference between training and education! I have passed that on to Michele Martin.

Ka kite