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'Visual' Books Benefit Computer Students

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"Visual" computer books are becoming increasingly popular in schools around the country and around the world. The books, which use more pictures than text in computer instruction, make learning easier both for beginners learning to use technology and for students learning to use new software. Included: What teachers say about visual books!


About the Author

Chris Charuhas, a former computer instructor, is CEO of Visibooks, publisher of "visual" computer training books.

When Charuhas first started his company, he gave drafts of the initial manuscripts to the toughest testers he knew -- his mom and a few of her fellow elementary school teachers.

"Mom's no dummy when it comes to learning and teaching, but she's always found computers too complicated," Charuhas said. "So when she and the other teachers said the books made things simple, I knew we had a winner."

All Visibooks titles can be purchased online for $19.95 -- or downloaded from the Visibooks site for free.

A new kind of how-to book is making it easier for students to learn computer-related subjects.

"Visual" computer books utilize pictures rather than text in computer instruction. The books are becoming increasingly popular, as a growing number of schools worldwide use them to teach new technology.

Just as the For Dummies book series found a ready audience, visual books are becoming widely-used among people dissatisfied with conventional, text-heavy computer manuals. "I totally agree with the [visual book] concept," said computer user Bob Morris of Washington, D.C. "Some of us understand more quickly what we see than what we read."

Unlike traditional computer books, visual books contain hundreds of screen shots and diagrams that walk students step-by-step through common tasks. Instructions are short and simple; illustrations are large and detailed. On-screen images are duplicated on the page and important areas are highlighted to draw the reader's attention.

Beginning students find this approach especially helpful. Alison Berry of the United Kingdom learned how to build her first Web site using a visual book. "I struggled with the official manual for three weeks until someone gave me [a visual book]," she said. "Then I learned as much in one day as I had in those three weeks!"

Many high school teachers have adopted visual texts because they allow students to work independently on basic tasks, leaving the instructor free to cover higher-level topics. At Middlesex High School in Saluda, Va., for example, business teacher Carl McWhorter uses visual books in his Web classes to assign homework on the nuts-and-bolts of site-building. This allows him to spend more class time on concepts such as Web site structure and information organization.

The growing popularity of visual computer books doesn't surprise Tom Berry, a student at a technical college in Richmond, Va. "No matter what you're learning, show is always better than tell," Berry told Education World. Christopher Will, a former Macmillan Computer Publishing executive now with iLearning.com, added, "We knew these sorts of books would catch on sooner or later. People just seem to instinctively prefer pictures to text."

The books reflect the trend in education towards accommodating different learning styles. Students previously considered lazy or slow now progress rapidly through lessons tailored to the ways they learn best. For some, it's through seeing; for others, hearing. Some even learn best through manipulating objects. Research has shown that most students prefer learning computer tasks visually, by seeing how things are done.

For computer "whiz kids" who require lots of specific information, traditional computer books fit the bill. But for beginners who aren't comfortable with technology or for students learning to use new software, visual computer books make learning easier.



 

Article by Chris Charuhas
Education World®
Copyright © 2001 Education World

10/3/2001