How am I supposed to KNOW that?

There is a frequent library customer who uses the phrase, “How am I supposed to know that?” whenever he’s learning about something new, especially when it comes to computers. How is he supposed to know? He isn’t supposed to know. But he might have to learn. We all have to read, watch, or try stuff out in order to know.

A coworker recently asked me how I know so much about Publisher. “Oh, I’ve practiced and worked with it a lot. I learned it…” was my answer. My hesitation with … at the end of my answer was there for a couple of reasons:

1. How does one know anything except by learning?
2. Isn’t learning what’s really important and why we’re all here (in the library, at least)?

I believe in the power of trial and error for learning, especially when it comes to computers and devices and technology in general. You can’t break it, so just see what happens when you push this key or that button. Not what you were hoping for? Try a different key or button. As long as you remember what happens when you push different keys or buttons, you’re over halfway there. And then practice. The more you familiarize yourself with what happens when certain keys or buttons are pushed, the better.

One of my coworkers pointed out that when computers first came out, you actually could break them. Put in the wrong floppy disk at the wrong time and hit the wrong button and you’re done. She has a great point about why some people still worry about interacting with technology. The good news is that those days are long gone. Now you really can’t break computers or devices—unless you drop or throw them across the room. Even then, if you have an Android smartphone like mine, your device might be just fine. I have dropped my phone countless times; while it sports a number of pavement scuffmarks, it still works great. (Unlike iPhones—those things seem to break like crazy so I can never have one.) Oh well, I still have a lot to learn.