Computer Input

Computer Input Skills

Just as we need to develop reading skills for reading books, we need strategies for Reading Computers – or more generally getting information from computers.

In an article I read recently, it described how some companies decided who to hire. Using Search Engine. Girl with Laptop computer searching for information.Job candidates were seated at computers. They were given a question and asked to find the best answer, using the computer. Videos were made of the process. The job candidates were later shown the videos and asked to explain reasons for what they did.

In the picture Leticia has been looking for information to use in an essay she is writing about someone she admired.  She wants to write about a woman in the northern Philippines who fought in her husband’s place when he was killed.  But she can’t remember the woman’s name.

It took several tries, rephrasing her search terms, but when you look at the expression on her face, you know she succeeded. The woman was Gabriella Silang. Now, Leticia has the name and information for her essay.

Finding the information you want isn’t always easy

In a book we can check the Table of Contents or the Index to find information.

With computers we must learn to use search engines.   For complex questions, it makes a difference how you word your query.

When I look for answers to website problems, I generally type “WordPress Weaver problem with links” or something similar.  It isn’t a proper sentence but it lets the computers know I need information about the WordPress site builder. Among the many available themes, Weaver is the theme I use. It might or might not be relevant. Then my problem.

If I had written “I have problems getting my links to work on WordPress,” I would get very different websites and very few would be helpful.

Six Strategies for finding the information you need

1. Only use essential words, most unusual word first  Mango Salad Recipe rather than Salad Mango Recipe or Salad Recipe with Mango

2. Eliminate terms you don’t want    Mango Salad Recipe -Lettuce  will give you only the recipes without lettuce.  The minus sign can also be used for eliminating eHow, Wikipedia, eBay, or other sites you don’t want.

3. To keep words together exactly use quotation marks as  “House for Sale”   This avoids  Sale: many useful items for your house. All three words are included.  But it won’t pick up For Sale: House.  You might try House+”For Sale”  and get it both ways. Similarly, if you are looking for Mary Jones and don’t use quotation marks, you like likely to get Mary Smith who works for the Jones Well-digging Company.

4. Looking for a quote.  Quotes Confidence  will give you many sites with quotations about confidence.  You’re looking for a particular quote.  “Ask not what you can do” and you will get the rest of the quotation and the person who said it. Without the quotation marks you might have a problem.

5. You want to learn how to say a word?  Nuclear pronunciation  and you will hear the word nuclear pronounced correctly.

6. You want choices? Lets say you want a pair of sandals made by SandyFeet – which I hope is a made up Company. They can be pink or purple.
“SandyFeet Sandals (Pink OR Purple)

Sometimes you can find obscure information by trying different search engines. No Google does NOT know everything.

Evaluate Your Sources

If you are doing a serious search, don’t stop with a single source. Get information on multiple sources. Then evaluate the sources.  If you are looking up ways to deal with a health problem, you’d find better information on WebMD than on Wikipedia or one doctor’s website.

What is the website like?  Is is a website for a well respected organization or something you never heard of?  I generally don’t trust websites with ads, especially if there are a lot of ads.  They may have scraped (stolen) bits and pieces from expert websites but not know anything on the subject themselves.

Reading on the Computer: Two interesting Facts

1. To begin with, it takes about 20% longer to read the same information on the computer rather than in a book.  This means that it will take longer to read an e-Book.

2. People read differently on a computer.  They tend to read the title and first several lines, much like they’d read a book. Then they begin reading, mainly down the left side of the screen, looking at the beginning words on each line. The further they go down the page, they more they are skimming, reading mainly headings and the sections in bold print. That makes sense if you are skimming for certain facts or to decide if the page is worth reading. But this is NOT reading.

 You should read differently depending on the material, both with books and on the computer

Learning to skim to find information is an important skill but, if you are reading for information, it is important to read the page carefully, evaluate the page and the source of the information and  make a decision.

Is it always important to read carefully the way you’d read a textbook?  Maybe you aren’t sure if the pages has the information you want. You can skim the page first., going back to the beginning to read carefully only  if you decided it is important.

Reading Books and Reading Computer Pages

For ALL reading, it makes sense to skim quickly and decide what information is included and how important it is. Then you would  decide if it is worth reading and choose the appropriate reading speed and strategies.  I’m sure that many High School Students skim this page and decide it’s nothing new. For others  with less experience on the internet, this information will seem important and they will take notes on the ideas that are new to them.

For both kinds of reading, it is wise to take notes . When you find important information  be sure you have the book tile, author publication date, and publishing information.  When you find important information on the internet, include the URL so you can find it again or complete information if you plan to  use a quote in a paper you have to write. Include the complete URL from the top of your screen, the page title, author (if given) and date published.

If you think you’d like to read more on this page, save it to favorites. If it is for a paper you are researching, create a folder for that paper and include this and other favorite sites related to your paper in that folder.


Note: Many of you will have further suggestions for learning from computers. Please share them in comments.

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