Why Is This Even a Question?

What is a Browser?

I have the utmost respect for LibrarianbyDay but I’m going to have to disagree (again) with her latest blog post.   She commented on this video too and feels that the average Joe doesn’t necessarily need to know what a browser is.  Personally I think that is root of most computer problems – people (average Joe or not) don’t know ENOUGH about the machines they use.

Computers are pretty much a part of all of our lives.  We use them at work, at home and they are in almost everything from our cars to our electronic equipment.  I feel that people DO need to know not only what things are called but how to use them properly.  I’m not saying we all need to be programmer and start writing code but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some computer competencies.

It is important to call things by the right name.  If I call it a whatizt but it is actually a howzer you won’t understand what I’m talking about, you won’t be able to help me and I’ll just get frustrated.   As someone who has to troubleshoot computer problems (which can often be user problems) nothing is more frustrating to both the user and me then when we can’t communicate.  Some might say “but you are speaking techie” – no, I am not.  I am known for using plain English but I will call things what they are (often followed by a short description or analogy so non-techies get it).

So let’s not perpuate this culture of not knowing what a browser or an operating system or anything else to do with these machines that are such a part of our lives.  Let’s educate people in at least the basics of computer literacy.  As a trainer I try to pass along nuggets every time I teach a class regardless of the main content.  If they are using computers in the class I’m going to be sure they know the browser we use is Firefox, that tab browsing is fantastic way to make your life easier (CtrlT), keyboard commands, etc.  I don’t think it is expecting too much of people that work with computers daily to know not only the correct words but some basic literacy when it comes to computers.

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4 Responses to Why Is This Even a Question?

  1. Bobbi says:

    I’m sure you and my mechanic would get along smashingly! ;-)

    I’m not saying it wouldn’t make a trainers life easier or heck even my own when I’m on the phone trying to help Dad share pictures. But I also know that some people like my Dad, for one reason or another will never get it. Does it mean I should take his computer away or refuse to help him? No it means I need to find away to explain things to him so he can understand and help him in spite of his inability or unwillingness to learn the techie talk.

    Also who is going to teach all these people? No lessons are required to buy a computer, anyone can get one. And they do pretty much run out of the box. How are people supposed to know they need training? You don’t necessarily know what you don’t know.

    You don’t NEED to know what a browser is to user your computer, would it make your and mine easier, yes.

    • mlibrarianus says:

      Yes, some people may never get it. My Mother the extreme technophob is one of them. However, to use the car analogy – you don’t just get into your car and drive. You know it needs gas, you now the oil and tires need to be changed. you know how to change gears, use the wipers or turn signal – so you do know SOMETHING about the car that gets you from point A to point B.

      You are right, no lessons or test is required to buy a computer. However, we use them every day and use them incorrectly or inefficiently – does that make it right? There are plenty of qualified people out there that can teach computer competencies (and I’m not talking just MSCE). I think 99% of non-tech folks know they need training. Every time they get a BSOD or a virus or something doesn’t quite work like it should – they don’t know what to do (nor do they know what they could have done to prevent it in the first place). I hear people grumble about computers all the time and most of it is user error. User error can be minimized if they would just take the time to LEARN some basic computer competencies. I don’t expect everyone to know everything about their computer just some basic so they are using it correctly.

      No, you don’t NEED to know what a browser is to use a computer but you SHOULD know what it is while using a computer. I believe that we need to stop the culture of just open the box, plug it in and assume it works. I believe we need to educate people. I see it as a extreme disservice and a ploy to keep people ignorant (which means some companies are making more and more money off the ignorance).

      Hope you don’t hate me too much after this ;)

  2. Shirley Oneill says:

    Today, driving home from work listening to “The Alchemyst”, I was thinking … you know.. my car might as well be magic for all i actually understand about how it works … how amazing is it that i hurtle up 29 at 70 mph and think nothing of all those widgets and gadgets whirring in there and what they need to keep doing …
    i believe we should educate those who wish to learn…and there are many people out there with different ideas of “doing something properly” … different is not wrong …

  3. millerlibrarian says:

    I do think that people should know what a browser is. Information literacy comes in many forms and this is relevant to that. We ask students to supply search strategies in their answers at the IPL, because we cannot assume that people know the lingo or terms. Additionally, in times of assistance for hardware and software, one of the first questions asked to trouble shoot is “What browser are you using?” A browser is relational to the ignition in a car. It’s there, I need to use it for it to work, so I should know what it is.

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