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By Jan Kuyper Erland
Mem-ExSpan, Inc.

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This is reprinted with permission
American Society For Training and Development's
"Performance In Practice". Winter 2000-2001

To manage the demands of our daily work, we depend on computer software. Depending on our work requirements, we may find ourselves using either Right-Brain or Left-Brain software. Right-Brain software includes programs such as QuarkXPress,® Microsoft PowerPoint,® or Adobe Photoshop,® Pagemaker,® and Image Ready.® Examples of Left-Brain programs are Excel,® Quick Books,® Quicken,® and SPSS ® (a statistical program). Many of us discover we have to rely on both types of software and must quickly learn new software using our Whole-Brain.

Before learning new software, you should first estimate your individual learning curve. For example, a Left-Brained accountant may find learning Adobe Photoshop ® demanding. Conversely, a right-brained graphic designer may find learning SPSS ® challenging. How do we bridge this disparity, by learning both types of programs when we need them?

Recently I enrolled in a Adobe Photoshop Introduction class to learn the latest design possibilities to apply to my Web site. Although I may not apply the graphics myself, I was eager to learn new looks and effects for overseeing an upcoming project. As a dominant left-brain person, I knew that quickly learning the pictorial process would be a challenge. Although I have a good eye for art and design, learning the location and "How-To" of complex tool menus and graphics interfaces would be another matter.

Since the teaching pace would be fast, and we each have our own learning styles, I knew everyone needed their own learning system. Here's how the system works:

Work with a partner at a computer. Any missed steps will be caught by at least one of you. Quickly scan and review the printed handout and keep it at hand during the instruction. When going over the tools and graphic components, listen and follow along for the "big picture."

Do not take notes, unless they are very short, or you will lose the overall concept. You can always refer to the manual later. Watch the demonstration of the practice assignment, then do it. If you begin practicing while the demo is in progress, you will lose important steps and make errors.

As you work, occasionally jot down brief notes for later reference. Continue to follow the demonstration. Review the steps with your partner. Ask pertinent questions. Review your notes and then practice the assignment. If you are a project manager, review and work up the specifications with the designer soon following the instruction while it is fresh in your mind.

Do not take a software course unless you have time to practice what you have learned immediately following the training. If your company arranges training at an inconvenient time for you, either reschedule the workshop for a later date or revise your calendar. Hands-on practice is always necessary to cement new knowledge.

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Jan Kuyper Erland, M. S. Program Content Developer, Intervention Consultant
Mem-ExSpan, Inc.
The Bridge To Achievement ®