Think on this a minute. Can you come up with a scenario where the skills you acquired learning one thing, helped you do another? For instance, did learning how to ride a bike help you learn how to ski? Did learning how to tie your shoes help you to learn how to braid your hair?
This week I watched this happen with two people learning to work with social media and virtual worlds. In one case, the person had previously worked with Blackboard Elluminate (running regular webinars). I went into the virtual world of Second Life with her and she took to it like a duck to water. All that pesky troubleshooting around sound issues in Second Life? Not a problem. She had the whole “triage” problem solving method down cold. As in….first check your computer volume (on mute?), then your headset (plugged in the right way?), then your computer sound preferences (set to the right thing?), then SL preferences….and so on. I didn’t have to explain a thing. You wouldn’t think that a webinar platform like Elluminate and a 3D virtual world like Second Life would have all that much in common!
In another instance it was someone learning how to use Pixton. She had never used the comic creation tool before but because she was a photographer, she quickly grasped the notion of frames and layout. In addition to that, Pixton has these somewhat confusing case-sensitive tool buttons where you only see the tool buttons that relate to what you are doing. In other words, you see a different set of buttons if you’ve clicked on a character than if you clicked on a speech bubble. Many people get muddled with these. But not in this case. As we worked further, it became clear that this person was transferring an understanding of case-sensitive tools that she earned using Photoshop.
Fascinating. In addition to the pleasure in seeing media skills transfer from one situation/tool to another, there’s another, harder to describe, benefit that seems to come along for the ride. I observed that my friend in the first scenario was just more patient, more resilient with the Second Life technical issues because she’s been there before. She’d seen similar technical problems through to a positive conclusion, and that gave her the confidence to press on. She possessed the certain knowledge that, eventually, she’d figure it out.
When I’m working with learners on new skills or concepts, all too often they just seem to give up – abandon ship – before they get to the fun part. Perhaps one way to diffuse this tendency is to reassure them – online tool use and technical problem solving are a cumulative things. The more you do, the more you can do.