technology, the learning curve, and i am not intuitive

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

I spent several parts of my work day today learning how to use my new Livescribe smart pen. I had discovered I wanted this little wonder about six months ago when my pastor shared that he uses a smart pen for his daily “SOAP” journaling (SOAP stands for scripture, observation, application, prayer).  I had never heard of a smart pen before that…but I instantly, desperately wanted one.

A smart pen is basically a computer. It comes with special paper that has little dots in it that help the pen to basically take pictures of what you write.  This is uploaded to Evernote where it becomes a searchable document.  Furthermore, the pen records sound.  So, if I’m taking minutes in a meeting, I can record the conversation as well, and the writing on the page is synced with the sound in the room.  Later, when I’m trying to proof my minutes, if I am unsure of my notes, I can tap on the page and – voila! – I can listen to what was being said in the room at the time I wrote the words.

It took me about six months to realize that while a smart pen is not in my PERSONAL budget at home, it would be a fabulous work tool.  As soon as that crossed my mind, I KNEW my boss (who calls me “technofresh”) would let me order one if I asked.  So, within like 48 hours of having had that thought, I had a box from Amazon on my desk at work.  WOO HOO!

Learning how to use my new technology, however, proved to be a real challenge today.

Here’s the thing:  it seems like newer, more cutting–edge technology tends not to come with clear instructions. I think it comes designed for people in the age 20-something group. 20-somethings do not require careful instructions as they learn to use digital technology. They just pick it up and play with it until they figure it out. 

This was a great challenge for me when my children were teaching me how to use Windows computers.  Though I had taken a computer programming course in college, that was “pre-Windows” (and all the 20-somethings stop to say, “There was life before Windows??) and the college course information was useless. My kids had been using computers at school since kindergarten.  I will never forget sitting with Julia, as she tried to teach me how to use our new computer.  She’d rattle off 10 quick steps and I’d be hollering, “Wait, wait, wait!  I’m not done writing down step ONE yet!”  It felt like I would never learn. 

I come from a generation of instruction manuals.  If you will give me a manual, I will patiently work my way through it.  If I know how to use something, I will happily write out a manual to help you work YOUR way through it.  But this generation doesn’t *do* manuals.  Technology is not designed for manuals now.  It is designed to be “intuitive.”  Designed to be learned by the simple tactic:  sit down and play with it until you figure it out.

I find that I am not very “intuitive” at all on new technology.

So my morning of learning how to use my smart pen was a bit of exercise in frustration. I wanted clear, step by step instructions. But, what I got was technology that invited me to play with it and learn how. Oh, I was able to find a video or two to watch, which helped me a bit in the learning the process. In truth, I’d have liked clearer instructions.  I spent a lot of time rubbing my head and sighing in frustration and asking the empty room around me, “Why does this have to be SO HARD?!”

It made me feel slightly ancient, that I cannot quickly learn how to use my smart then without being filled with frustration and needing to make multiple attempts.  I wished one of my kids lived nearer, so they could play with it for ten minutes and then explain the whole thing like it wasn’t even hard. 

Eventually, by trial and error, I figured a lot of it out.  I am now confident that the rest of it will come to me.  Still, I feel a little old at the difficulty of the learning curve.

But before entertaining the “I’m a geezer” thought for very long, I simply remind myself that after all, I did compose this blog mostly by speaking into my iPhone, using the Dragon Dictation app.  I guess I am still learning new technology.

Maybe I am not dead yet.

  1. Me says:

    Oh I looove this one, Karen!!!!

    Sent from my Motorola Smartphone on the Now Network from Sprint!

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