[Edu-sig] Computer Hatred

Laura Creighton lac at strakt.com
Wed Sep 24 10:58:26 EDT 2003

In a message of Wed, 24 Sep 2003 15:03:53 BST, Shelley Walsh writes:
>I'm not looking for a statistical package. I am trying to discover such
>basic things as why it is so much easier to press 2+4= on a calculator than
>=2+4 in a spreadsheet. Or for that matter why typing 2+4 at a >>> prompt is
>so much harder than pressing 2+4= on a calculator. My experience was that
>students were even more violently against Python than they were against
>Excel. The ** drives for powers scares them even more than the ^ does.
>Shelley Walsh
>shelley.walsh9 at ntlworld.com

I think the question you need to ask is 'what makes a calculator easy
to use'.  It may simply be that people are trained to use a calculator,
long before you meet them.  (How old are these students, anyway?)
Plenty of things are called 'intuitive' when all they actually are
is 'familiar'.  This makes measuring whether something is actually
'easy to use' vs 'you just know how to do it' a difficult problem for
Human Computer Interaction.  

Perhaps your user community is distinctly different from mine, but the
12 year old children in the computer club don't like '**' for power
because they are unfamiliar with that notation. (Some of them are
unfamiliar with the notion of exponentiation as well.)  Giving them a
page of 'pen and paper' math problems to solve, where they were asked
to use the ** notation made them familiar with it, which fixed that
problem.  The first year, I thought that 8 questions would be
sufficient for familiarity, but that proved not to be the case.  Next
year I used 20, and had no trouble.  It may be that your students need
more hands on training with computers to become more familiar with
loading and using programs in general, or certain programs in

Laura Creighton

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