The Handout is My Best Friend

Picture of a Blakcboard with Welcome Class on it

Picture Courtesy of Pixabay

While I’ve been doing technical documentation for years, I’ve just starting holding classes on technology. I’m not what you’d call a confident public speaker. It doesn’t matter if I’m speaking to 5 people or 50, I’m just uncomfortable. Luckily, teaching technology affords me the opportunity to use a projector to show folks what I’m talking about. That keeps their penetrating eyes away from my nervous self. Yet even that isn’t enough to keep me from constantly tripping over my tongue. That’s where the aforementioned documentation comes in.

I read somewhere that students only retain 10% of what you teach them. It takes studying and reinforcing of ideas to get the other 90%. So what better way to help them study than with handouts? I put together exercises so that folks can see the technology in action. That comes from personal experience.

I learn by doing. Even if I’m not sure why I’m doing a thing, actually doing it will give me a sort of muscle memory that will help me put the pieces of the technology puzzle together later on.

So with this in mind I will draw up the steps on how to connect an iPad to the wifi or how to copy a formula from one cell in Excel to another. But I do more than just list the steps. I’ll put in screenshots as well. Technical documentation has gotten much better, what with the Teach Yourself Visually books series and Youtube videos relying on words AND pictures to help teach, but I remember reading many a technical document that was so dry it was the cure for insomnia.

It may take quite a bit more time to put in screenshots, crop them so that they fit on the page, and insert pointers if the button or menu that a step is describing isn’t readily apparent, but I think it’s worth it. Afterall, it may be part of my job to help patrons with technology problems, I don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over again. I feel I’d be doing them a disservice to force them to keep coming back to me for help. As the old saying goes: “Fish for a man and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”

I figure I’ll get more comfortable with teaching as the years go by, but I’ll keep giving handouts on the topics I teach. You should too. If you’re responsible for teaching technology to neophytes, that’s probably the best advice I can give you.

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