General Chat Thread, Teaching how to "Office"? How? in General; There has been some discussions recently, about OSS vs MS Office (2003v2007v2010) and the discussions went along the lines of ...
11th June 2010, 12:52 PM #1
Teaching how to "Office"? How?
There has been some discussions recently, about OSS vs MS Office (2003v2007v2010) and the discussions went along the lines of "We should teach people to do the tasks (aka, teach them to word process) rather than teach them the application.
Now I can see how you can do some of this, at a basic level with most things; you can teach a person to program, then you can teach a person how to use C+, or VB, or Java etc etc.
But beyond teaching people the layout of a keyboard, and the basic principles of layout/formatting (spaces/punctuation go here, paragraphs go here, pink on red backgrounds DO NOT WORK!)
How DO you teach generic word processing, and for the matter, how do you teach them generic database, generic presentation, and generic spreadsheets, without teaching them Word/Excel/Access/Powerpoint?
The features of each competitive program differ; for example, the formula within Google spreadsheet are technically the same formula used in excel, except they write some of the functions the other way round in google than they do in excel!
A lot of people who were used to the likes of Office 2003, find office 2007/2010 very difficult to use, because where they normally go to find certain features is completely different.
So other than teaching people basic english usage, mathematics, and the principles of design, how DO YOU teach these things without teaching someone the specific program, within a young education environment? Does anyone do this, or do we just teach X program and hope they pick up how to do these things?
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11th June 2010, 01:04 PM #2
An analogy: You're taught how to drive in a Vauxhall Corsa. Once you've passed your test you can transfer those skills to a Ford Fiesta quite easily.
You turn the headlights on with a control on the stalk in a Fiesta rather than the knob on the dashboard in a Corsa, but you know there will be a control to do it somewhere.
Back to word processing: You should be taught that to get to a new page you insert a page break rather than pressing return lots of times, and you've had the reasons why demonstrated (or been given an exercise where you find out for yourself). You're taught where the button for Insert Page Break is in Word 2003 (because that's what you're using) and that other word processors will have a similar feature somewhere.
Therefore when you use Word 2007, Open Office or Abi Word, you know that pressing return lots of times is still a bad idea, and that if you hunt hard enough, or look in help, there will be a button for inserting a page break somewhere.
It should be about making sure people understand the principles and conepts of why they're doing something.
11th June 2010, 01:05 PM #3
The theory is that 'Word Processing' is the process of applying formating to text. So you teach what the different formating options are, it shouldn't matter where in any menu tree those functions appear. The idea is that the student IS looking for the function within a menu system - and not blindly copying the teacher unquestionably along a specific packages menu path to do X without understanding what they are doing.
For example (a bad one but it's all I can think off atm) - to underline text. What matters is the student know WP's are capable of this and have it in mind what they want to do. Whether they click a button to do it on a bar or find it in a menu isn't the point. The problem comes when they are taught - 'To underling you alway goto 'Edit' and select 'Underline' from the menu'. Now we are in a position that when the software changes and underline is no longer under the edit menu the student can't cope.
Teaching basic WIMP concepts should be seperate from anyone software package. If you teach WIMP seperate from MS Office (which I've never seen happen) then one would hope anyone with any ounce of savvy could say 'I want to underline some text, I know it must be in a menu somewhere, lets find it'. Rather than freaking out because it's not where they've been taught it will always be.
EDIT: Actually I think the resistance and problems come from staff only ever using one particular package and learning 'puters by rote. I think most kids couldn't care less what package they are using so long as it works. Todays generation have grown up with PC's in a way previous generations haven't so they just get on with it and could cope regardless.
The problem with changing Office package is not the differences in Office pacakges themselves or how the kids would cope using them. The problem is the fear factor of change from staff. If asked by a student 'How do I do a page break' they are suddenly out of their comfort zone and are not able to help the student find it in the menus unless it is where they have been taught
-just my 2c
Last edited by tmcd35; 11th June 2010 at 01:14 PM.
11th June 2010, 01:19 PM #4
As @tmcd35: says it's about looking for concepts and getting those across.
A few examples:
using styles for formatting (so you never underline a heading, you setup a style for headings which may include underlining and apply that. When you realise that underlining is naff, it's a moments work to change the style for outdented bold or whatever)
working with lists (bullets, numbers) and the levels of list
using outlining (really helpful to do this with styles and then table of contents)
using and managing templates
using fields and mailmerging by linking to external data (can be pretty easy; can be very complex)
Depending on the level of user you might start this by teaching "this is how you do X in Word" and then moving on to "now find out how to do it in Open Office" or it might be "find out how to set up heading styles in Word, Open Office etc and then attach to these sample documents"
11th June 2010, 01:54 PM #5
That's funny, I still look for the Vauxhall style headlamp switch sometimes in my Fiesta... force of habit!
Originally Posted by SteveBentley
As far as your analogy goes, you're right... but there will always be some clueless people who won't get it unless someone shows them how to do it. Doesn't matter how intuitive something is, some people lack the intuition (or possibly just motivation) to figure these things out. That applies to cars and computers
This is something we're considering with upgrading our Office app now.
11th June 2010, 02:15 PM #6
In many respects doing Word Processing "properly" is a bit counterintuitive - there's a perfectly good fonts menu right here, why would you use styles?
I think there is a difference between what we, as IT professionals would expect to be in the ICT curriculum and what is actually there though. I mentioned the "Word Processing your Dissertation" sessions I run for final year undergraduate students to a friend who teaches ICT at a secondary school and she said that a lot of what I'm covering isn't part of the curriculum, and there isn't time to teach the useful extras. Yet there is an expectation here that students arrive for their degree as expert users of IT, and as such the IT modules which used to run in the first year to make sure everybody was at least at a simple baseline level have been dropped by most courses.
Which probably explains the quite remarkable displays of word processing skills the final years who don't turn up for my sessions have been known to produce. This year's epic was using dozens of spaces to get to the next line because the student didn't know to shift-return to get a single line return.
11th June 2010, 02:38 PM #7
The car analogy is a good one, and can possibly be compared to the difference between Open Office and Office 2003.
But the OO/2003 versus 2007/2010 difference is more like having a dashboard with all the buttons on, and a scrollbar underneath to swap between different sets of car functions; so your centre console would have an array of buttons for your car stereo, and you'd have to flick a switch or scrollbar to get to the windscreen wiper functions, and then again to reach your air con settings! You still know how to drive the car, but finding the damned rear wiper cleaner function takes a map and a good memory!
And most students are taught to use page breaks and the many other features using <package x>, and when the program or shortcuts you use to do that change, you might as well not have learnt to do it in the first if you do not know how/where to find it.
A person who can drive an automatic car will struggle with a manual car, but a manual driver can generally still drive an automatic; but every now and then, I'd bet the manual driver still goes to put down the clutch foot when breaking in the automatic
11th June 2010, 03:09 PM #8
The Ingots | International Grades - Open Technologies are heavily based on teaching concepts and then helping learners apply them ... you can do their courses with proprietary or open source apps. Worth looking at if this is what you are after.
11th June 2010, 03:26 PM #9
I would settle for "open the help menu and search for 'thing I'm trying to do' before asking for help". it's even F1 in OpenOffice on Linux.
That alone would improve their productivity rather than waiting for me to help them out on basic things.
11th June 2010, 04:32 PM #10
Agreed and I really wish more people would use help but I think it's different from being taught the concepts.
Originally Posted by pete
Styles (which I've liked ever since I found the "gallery" in Word for DOS!) are non-obvious but vital if you want to do word processing properly. If you're just wondering "how can I change font size" then F1 help will get you that but it probably won't ask you "what are you actually trying to do" and point you towards the "right" way of doing it. (what you need is a dancing paperclip saying "are you trying to design a layout that you might reuse or change in the future? If so, you need styles :-)")
11th June 2010, 04:54 PM #11
You're one of this filthy "clippy" enthusiasts aren't you? I've heard legends, but never thought I'd see one in real life. This is something to tell my grandchildren.
Originally Posted by srochford
This? Oh, it's an elephant gun.......no, I'm cleaning it. Yes these are special cleaning bullets I'm just using to scrub the barrel out. Vigorously.
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