The “Lost Cause”

This post is about technology education more than just technology in music education. And before I go further, I want to add that I believe that all people can learn and change at some level. This post does not address learning disabilities–but instead a type of tech user in general.

If you are a technology user, you have likely observed a “lost cause” in your environment–at work or at school. A “lost cause” is a technology user that, for whatever reason, regardless of the amount of training received, can only handle the very basic concepts of technology. In education, this means that they can only handle basic tasks like e-mail, student information systems (attendance and grading), writing basic assignments (usually with the most basic formatting) and using an Interactive White Board as a white board.  A person that learns slowly and steadily is NOT a “Lost Cause.”

Some observations about “Lost Causes”:

  1. “Lost Causes” are usually very optimistic about new technology, and will both freely admit that they struggle with technology but are excited about learning.
    “Lost Causes” will usually have a track record with technological issues, and will have several people that they fall back on for support for even basic tasks.
  2. “Lost Causes” will attend basic training sessions several times (if not yearly) and will often attend any and all training sessions offered.
  3. “Lost Causes” will take copious notes, by hand, for each step of a process, and will make an entire training session wait as they write down each step, even if they are given an instruction manual with pictures and step-by-step instructions.
  4. “Lost Causes” will attempt to use technology several times in the classroom, and will immediately quit when they forget a step in the process and blame the technology itself. If another technology user isn’t in the room, the technology may be abandoned until the next training session.
  5. In the educational field, “Lost Causes” will turn to students in the classroom for technological help, which can be dangerous if the issue involves confidential data or the students themselves have not been trained on the technology.
  6. “Lost Causes” come from all generations, although logically, greater percentages of “Lost Causes” come from older generations that may not have incorporated technology throughout their lives (Younger generations are forced, at some level, to be proficient with technology just to communicate with their generation).  Still, “younger” IT specialists and technology superstars need to remember that just because someone is “older” doesn’t mean that they are a “Lost Cause,” and that just because someone is younger that they are “Technology Proficient.”
  7. “Lost Causes” will typically own very basic personal technology, and will not purchase things like smart phones, iPads, or any networked device. Most “Lost Causes” will not have purchased music or movies online, distrust purchasing online, and will typically have a desktop computer at home which can be hardwired to the Internet, usually by the cable guy.
  8. “Lost Causes” usually are not protected from viruses on the Internet, and have several viruses (if not many) on their personal computers. This is because they will click on any dialogue box.
  9. “Lost Causes” will usually admit that they are “Lost Causes” and are resigned to the fact that they will always be lost causes.

What do you do with Lost Causes? You continue to work with them, as they can still learn, even though they will likely remain a Lost Cause overall:

  1. Clearly define the basic technology expectations for your organization, and make those clear to all members of your organization.  This gives “Lost Causes” a very clear “must achieve list,” which they will work to achieve.  Although “Lost Causes” may accept and admit that they are “Lost Causes,” they do not want to be labeled as “inept” or “unqualified.”
  2. Patience is a virtue. I know many IT people that lack patience, which is a shame. Patience–and kindness–should be the primary personal skills required for an IT position that requires technical support to other people.
  3. In training and retraining, always reassure a “Lost Cause” that everything is okay, and that they can do no permanent damage to any primary system. They may lose personal projects, but that isn’t fatal, and Harry McCracken of Technologizer says that a lost document is God’s way of telling us we can do it better.
  4. Requiring “Lost Causes” to attend advanced training sessions is a huge waste of time. There should be multiple levels of training where people can choose their own level. A “Lost Cause” knows they are a “Lost Cause,” and will always choose the appropriate level.
  5. In training sessions, “Lost Causes” need lots of “hands-on” time. They also need to be forced to do things themselves in training, because they will always sit back and let another learner do a hands-on task.
  6. In the educational environment, position a “Lost Cause’s” room next to a technology user or technology superstar that is willing to help. Let both of the people know that they are specifically being placed to help that “Lost Cause”.
  7. Your school’s/district’s/company’s restrictions on computers and aggressive firewalls are partially for the “Lost Cause” that clicks on every dialogue box. If possible, try to talk “Lost Causes” through those situations, and ask them to seek help.
  8. Have realistic expectations for “Lost Causes.” Technology integration at the most basic level should be the expectation, and successes should be celebrated.
  9. Make sure that “Lost Causes” are not hitting up your technology superstars for personal technology help. Helping a “Lost Cause” with personal technology opens a floodgate of calls, visits, and hours of labor that will run the technology superstar into the ground (eliminating viruses, restoring OSes, installing networks and peripherals, and so on). Technology superstars will want to help but will eventually get trapped–hours and hours outside the workplace without compensation. So the best procedure is to provide “Lost Causes” with a list of resources (Geek Squad, computer repair shops) for their personal technology. Yes, a technology superstar can do most of these repairs–but helping a “Lost Cause” with personal technology can be a slippery slope.
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