COVID-19 has plunged the entire world into the digital age. While the Internet and Computer technologies had been in wide-scale use since the 90s, most persons still had a choice whether to immerse themselves in the technology revolution. However, the stay at home orders imposed by COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of us into the use of the Internet and Computer technologies.
For some persons, it is an absolute delight. While, for others, it is quite terrifying, because they have little or no foundation in the field.
I have prepared this blog to outline some principles that the absolute beginner can use to navigate their way into learning new technologies while not becoming overwhelmed. I am sharing ten (10) steps or guidelines to get you started on this exciting journey towards upgrading yourself with technology.
- We are all ignorant. It was Albert Einstein who said, “We are all very ignorant. What happens is that not all ignore the same things” (Albert Einstein Quote 2020). The first person to know the technology well is the person who invented it. All others are novices until they learn to use that technology. Therefore, do not feel embarrassed about your ignorance of some or all technology.
- Focus. The word technology and even computer technology covers a vast field. When someone says that they are ignorant of technology, it is essential to know what area of computer technology they are talking about. Computer technology covers many areas, such as hardware, software, websites, mobile apps, computer programming, graphic design, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, video editing, etc. Besides, each of the above-mentioned fields includes their subsets of specialization. Therefore, in order not to become overwhelmed, you need to decide what area (s) of technology you need for your personal use and work. Then, focus your time on learning those technologies.
- Technology intuition. The term refers to “the ability to understand technology intuitively.” More than only learning different technologies, it is essential to develop/grow your technology intuition because new technologies emerge every day. Therefore, the fact that you learn a technology well today does not guarantee it will remain tomorrow. Technology intuition helps you to take up a new device or software, for example, and find your way around without much help. Part of what makes technology intuition works is that most computer technologies were built with you (the user) in mind. For example, most e-commerce sites use the concept of a "shopping cart" because most persons can easily discern what a shopping cart is. We grow/develop technology intuition by paying attention to icons, buttons, and concepts common among all technologies. For example, the gear icon is usually associated with opening the “settings” in a software or operating system. The bin icon is generally related to the concept of "delete." Etc.
- Read documentation. Take time to read the documentation of a software/hardware before using it. Documentation is an integral part of technology design. Though it is an unexciting part of software development, most software developers do it because they know that it is the ethical thing to do, and it is the only way most persons will learn about their software. Therefore, while you might be able to use technology intuition to figure your way around the software, reading the documentation gets you to a deeper level of understanding the software/device. Some unique features can only be figured out by reading. Even video tutorials can miss some key features that you will only find in the documentation.
- Seek help online. Nothing is embarrassing about seeking help online through Google search, forums, enrolling in an online course, or watching YouTube videos. We all do it, from the novice to the expert. It is a myth to think that it is because you are inadequate why you had to search for help. For getting through a single problem, you can do searches and visit forums. Most times, you will find that the question you ask has not only been asked several times but has received adequate answers. I remember pining over a problem for several days, reluctant to ask because I felt my problem was too unique. However, I went to a forum and asked the question. After just 1 hour, someone responded and gave me the answer. On the other hand, when learning technology for the first time, more than just doing a google search, it is best to enroll in an online course (paid or free). You have paid platforms such as Pluralsight, Udemy, or LinkedIn Learning. Or you can find free learning on YouTube or digitallearning.org.
- Take your time. Learning is painful, and there are no shortcuts to it. But the rewards are great. Not only are you learning new technologies, but you are building your technology intuition. It is a slow process, but a rewarding one.
- Curiosity. Children and youth (of this generation) appear to have higher technology intuition than most adults. Part of the reason is that they are digital natives. A digital native is a person who grew up in the digital age, rather than acquiring those skills as adults (Rouse, M. 2019). From my observation, one of the qualities that allow digital natives to adapt to new technologies is curiosity. They spend a lot of time exploring—trying to find out how things work. Of course, exploration is time-consuming, costly, and mistake-prone, but that is part of the price paid for learning. So, put on your curiosity cap and get started. Do not be afraid of making mistakes.
- Find a mentor. Besides reading documentation, watching online videos, or enrolling in online courses, it is always good to have a big brother or big sister who you can call when you get stuck with learning some technology. A mentor is a technology expert who will take the time to listen to your problem and talk you through a solution. No online course can give you that. Because most times, online courses are prepared for the masses. We all need a technology mentor.
- Practice. It is quite easy to lose the knowledge that you do not use. Therefore, as you learn new stuff, take time to practice, and explore what you learn.
- Help someone else. The best way to cement learning is to teach others. While you should never pretend to be an expert at everything, helping others with the little knowledge you gain can significantly improve your growth. So, as you grow, you can decide to mentor others in the position you were before getting started.
In this digital age, using technology is no more a novelty; it is a necessity. Therefore, whether you are a digital native or not, you need to take your plunge without fear or intimidation. Follow the guidelines above and take your time to grow this critical dimension of your life.
Albert Einstein Quote. (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.azquotes.com/quote/856220
Rouse, M. (2019, December 30). What is digital citizenship? A definition from WhatIs.com. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/digital-citizenship