From Roland Tanglao: Phil Agre’s How to Help Someone Use a Computer is a piece that I wish I could have written. Unfortunately, I break too many of these rules (although I sense that I’m doing so when I do) because I don’t have quite enough patience.
Phil’s points are so wise and on point that each of us should use them as a starting point when helping others learn to use a computer or any other tool, for that matter.
I especially agree with his point of getting down to eye-level rather than standing over someone’s shoulder.
A few of my favorites:
“Don’t take the keyboard. Let them do all the typing, even if it’s slower that way, and even if you have to point them to every key they need to type. That’s the only way they’re going to learn from the interaction.”
“Attend to the symbolism of the interaction. Try to squat down so your eyes are just below the level of theirs. When they’re looking at the computer, look at the computer. When they’re looking at you, look back at them.”
“Explain your thinking. Don’t make it mysterious. If something is true, show them how they can see it’s true. When you don’t know, say “I don’t know”. When you’re guessing, say “let’s try … because …”. Resist the temptation to appear all-knowing. Help them learn to think the problem through.”
“Take a long-term view. Who do users in this community get help from? If you focus on building that person’s skills, the skills will diffuse to everyone else.”