Just Try It!

(c) Dr. Arthur Holub, January 1999

A funny thing happened a little while ago. One of the advanced Internet classes was finishing and I asked the class what they had learned from taking this series of three, four week classes. The answers really surprised me. I had expected to hear some technical jargon. I thought that my brilliance as a teacher would have engendered responses like, "I found new ways to use Email," or things of that nature. Instead, the class almost unanimously answered that they had gotten two things from taking this series of classes. First, they emphasized that they "no longer were afraid of the computer." Secondly they said that, "watching me fumble around taught them not to be afraid to try things."

Upon reflection, I concluded that these were wonderful answers. They really represented the bottom line of taking computer classes. All the technical terms and techniques of the Internet, or any computer subject, can be learned from the hundreds of books available. But the fundamental, gut feeling, that you can master the computer as opposed to the computer mastering you can only be learned by trying things and finding out that it is very hard to foul anything up!

Nike probably has copyrighted "Just Do It," so I want to propose a new mantra for computer users; "Just Try It." Once you have gotten over the fear that you can damage the computer, the way to answer a lot of questions is to "Just Try It." "What happens if I try to change something?" Try changing it and see. "What happens if I make a mistake and delete something?" Try it and see. And so on...

Let me share with you a technique that I use. When I am trying new things, I make a "play" file. Suppose that I am using Microsoft Word to produce a document and I want to change the margins but am not sure how to accomplish this. I make a new file that I save as "play.doc." Then I type things in play.doc and try to change the margins. Once I have figured out how this works, I go back to my original document and make the changes. Thus, if I make a mistake while using play.doc, I can get it straightened out before making a change to my original document. This is a great learning method and I can try things without taking a chance of hurting my "serious" work.

There is one caution to this method. If for instance you are using the Internet and want to try making changes to some settings in an option or setup menu, write down the original settings so that you can restore them if what you try doesn't work. If you are going to make any really complex changes, sometimes it is a good idea to make a backup copy on diskette of the file(s) you are contemplating changing just in case also. You probably aren't going to make these types of changes for a while however.

It is very gratifying to me as a teacher when people see me later and tell me they are having fun because they learned not to be afraid to try things and have learned all sorts of new techniques to make their computer use more rewarding. So, remember, "Just Try It!"

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