Practice makes perfect when it comes to technology

PHOTO: Creative Commons

The winter gift-giving season has passed and as all of the excitement of the gifts of new technology and devices starts to fade, perhaps the reality of learning to use these devices has begun to set in. Are you having nightmares about shiny new iPads chasing you?

Everything seemed fantastic when those younger family members enthusiastically boasted about the features of your new tablet device or smartphone. However, now you’ve tried using it on your own and have run into some confusing roadblocks.

Take a deep breath. You aren’t the first person to be confused by this new gizmo. Just as with picking up any sort of sport, instrument or game, there is a process to learning and it’s best to take it one step at a time. Before throwing your tablet out the window in frustration, remember that you don’t need to tackle everything at once. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake – failure is the perfect way to learn what you don’t know. The idea here is to get the ball rolling. Start by making a list of all of the things you can’t seem to figure out on your own.

One of the best learning resources are the people around you. Often the most effective way to learn is from someone directly. Think of a family member or friend who has a better understanding of technology than you. Ask them to come over for coffee and give you an hour of their time. Don’t feel like a burden, this is what family and friends are for.

The majority of my clients learn by doing, not by watching. That means when your teacher shows you how to write or reply to emails, you will need to do it several times until you can do it on your own. Ask them kindly to be patient until you understand it thoroughly. Repeat, repeat, repeat is the best way to learn.

I encourage people to take notes during lessons to return to later, but understanding the concepts is most important.

Following step-by-step instructions is quite a bit different than actually knowing what you’re doing.

Ask your tutor to only focus on one thing at a time. Start simple and stay simple. There may be a multitude of things they want to show you about any given device but today you need help with emailing. Ask them to leave the lesson about using Facebook for the next time.

Don’t make it a marathon session. Most of my clients can only learn new things for about 90 minutes on average before their brain goes into overload and they need a break.

Once you learn the absolute basics of your new device, in time you’ll get better and more confident at teaching yourself. Concepts you have learned about sending an email will carry over to other challenges in the future. The more time you spend on the device, the less you’ll be on edge. You will develop confidence by overcoming roadblocks and most importantly, remember to be proud of those achievements.

Many of these points may seem obvious to some readers. But after two years of helping people with technology, I’ve found it is becoming increasingly difficult for newcomers to learn new technology. Conceptual learning and teaching is always difficult in the early stages, but patience and repetition can help overcome arduous challenges.

Perhaps Facebook and Twitter aren’t your thing, but being able to look up a movie time, check a restaurant’s reviews, call a friend across the ocean for free, or find an address would be something you might find useful. Before you know it, you will be enjoying the device you feared so much and hopefully those iPad nightmares will have subsided.

Watch for my upcoming articles that will delve more specifically into concepts like using Google more effectively and for reasons you may never have considered.

Alex Webster offers computer coaching and support for the Beaches and Toronto East. Connect with him at

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