Peace Corps

In which Theresa realizes it’s a learning style thang

Trying to organize my thoughts into some sort of coherency. I’m a mess, not in a bad way, just that I’ve had an incredibly productive morning, and now my brain is fried. It was productive because I put on my headphones and ignored everything going on around me, including the crazy-ass network that never works.

My counterpart wants me to teach him how I did the site mock-up in Photoshop. How do I explain that it’s just experience? I can give basic tutorials, but actual site design is as much experience as anything else. I know what sorts of things are going to work because I’ve been on the internet since elementary school and the web since middle school, and I’ve been designing websites since high school. Despite that, I went through dozens of paper sketches before I found a few I liked, four or five different Photoshop sketches, and then at least four color schemes on the final design.

It’s nobody’s fault that the educational system does not, in any way, shape, or form, teach critical thinking. Yeah, we all laughed at those stupid exercises in school, but the truth of the matter is that Americans are taught from birth to “think outside the box.” We’re taught to look for different solutions, and if something doesn’t work, explore paths and avenues to fix it. Here, learning is by rote, and the only expectation is that students can regurgitate the information on their tests. Problem solving isn’t encouraged. Ever.

So I come in, used to American/ Western work styles, and can’t figure out why a google search is so difficult. Turns out, picking keywords is damn hard. I have great google-fu, not only because I have an excellent command of the English language, but also because I’m able to analyze that list of 10 results to narrow my terms and get a better search. The ability to analyze results and tailor keywords is learned. So is the ability to “play” with a new program. We’ve been trained to click buttons and see what happens. Here, a bewildering new interface brings everything to a screeching halt until someone explains what each and every thing does . . . and makes themselves available for questions when a step is forgotten.

The natural confidence we have to try new things is only a small part of the difference. As an American learning a new program, I don’t feel I’ve lost any face by not knowing it. I just explore until I’m comfortable. Messing up is a bigger deal here. Much better, and much easier, to just play it safe and ask Theresa a lot of questions.

Which is fine, of course, except that I’ve got a pretty ridiculous deadline to meet, and I just don’t have time to sit down every day and spend 3 hours explaining what I’ve been doing all morning. So . . . if anyone knows any good resources for teaching about technology in Africa, specifically as related to this difference in learning styles, hit me up with an email (theresac at gmail) or in the comments. раскрутка

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