[LINK] Real-world IT skills levels (was Re: Show me the money)

Stilgherrian stil at stilgherrian.com
Wed Oct 29 10:08:24 EST 2008

On 29/10/2008, at 9:40 AM, Jan Whitaker wrote:
> By this stage in computer skills
> development, we should be well past the 'need to train' argument in
> most modern workplaces. People come with keyboard skills and word
> processing and at least a passing acquaintance with spreadsheets if
> they need it.

Sadly out in actual small businesses whose primary function is not  
computer-related this simply isn't the case.

I've banged on about this before, I know. But the simple truth is that  
in the majority of the small business clients I deal with, computer  
skills are an oral tradition... and like all oral traditions it's full  
of half-truths, myths, obsolete ideas and plain old falsehoods.

As I said in August http://mailman.anu.edu.au/pipermail/link/2008-August/078952.html

     The majority of the users I deal with are not aware that the home  
     of their web browser can be changed. Of those that do know, only  
     tiniest minority know how to do it, or how to look up how to do it.
     Very few people are comfortable with the idea of searching for  
     information, I suspect largely because they don't know what to  

     More importantly, the vast majority of the users I see do not know
     what the terms "web browser" or "home page" mean. It's just "the
     internet". Then again, neither do they confidently know the terms
     "menu bar", "toolbar", "radio button", "checkbox", "dialog"...  
     very few "ordinary" users have any formal training in any of this.

Things which us digerati (or digital dinosaurs, in most cases it  
seems) take for granted but which is very UNcommon knowledge amongst  
small-business computer users include:

   * Word processors have "styles" and "templates" and other tools to
     make life easier. More complex word processors can combine data
     from different documents.

   * Email is "part of" the Internet, as is "instant  
messaging" (although
     they won't know that it's called "IM", they just call is "MSN").
     If you are not connected to "the Internet" (which for them is
     "websites), then the others don't work either.

   * Spreadsheets have formulae beyond adding up and simple  

   * Email programs (never use the word "client", they think you mean
     their customers" can have rules to automatically do stuff.

   * Computers are doing things when when you're not sitting in front of
     them pedalling them along. Computers can even do things without you
     being there at all.

   * Things change.

I could go on... but the idea that workers come pre-implanted with  
computer literacy is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. In most  
cases if they DID ever do anything formal in the way of training, a  
lot of that is now obsolete thanks to rapid change. And now Office  
2007 looks different and their web browser looks different and they're  
all confused.

A challenge: In just one sentence, explain when you should "click" and  
when you should "double-click". After you explain what "double-click"  
means, 'cos they might know it as "click twice".


Stilgherrian http://stilgherrian.com/
Internet, IT and Media Consulting, Sydney, Australia
mobile +61 407 623 600
fax +61 2 9516 5630
Twitter: stilgherrian
Skype: stilgherrian
ABN 25 231 641 421

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