On Learning New Skills

Holly siting at her computer in ScholarSpace

In elementary and middle school, tennis was my favorite sport. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I went to tennis practice, then Tuesdays and Thursdays I usually went to tennis match play, and weekends were reserved for tournaments. Throughout the years, I doubled-up with other activities like ceramics and guitar, and sports like skiing, swimming, field hockey, and golf -- but tennis was the constant. By the time I went to high school, I was able to walk onto the varsity tennis team, but not the varsity ski or golf team.

I realize now that my best sport was tennis because I spent years hitting thousands of tennis balls. In some ways, the software programs that I help clients use in ScholarSpace are so similar to sports in that you have to repeatedly interact with them in order to become proficient. 

Through experiences in ScholarSpace, I have learned that just watching someone execute a procedure in a specific software does not mean that I, or a client, will be able to repeat this procedure. It’s like professional tennis, even though I watch it, that doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly be playing like Roger Federer. Oftentimes, I have to sit in on a workshop and help answer questions, and I have found that I am unable to help people when they get stuck if I am not clicking along and doing the activity in the program with them. 

One could say, you have to hit a thousand tennis balls to hit the winning shot of a match, and likewise you have to type a thousand Excel cells before you really understand what you’re doing.

As a consultant at ScholarSpace, I now appreciate the value, applicability, and transferability of the tech skills I have learned in classes. Many of my courses require using Excel. I used to feel as if Excel was intuitive, but I now realize that it feels second nature because of the numerous repetitions I have done. Clients often come to ScholarSpace with beginner Excel questions. I find myself showing them the basic steps, then encouraging them to repeat this process on their own until they are ready to move to the next step. There is also the case where a client comes in with a similar skill set in Excel, but the client is trying to achieve an end product that is completely foreign to me. We’re playing with the same equipment, yet it’s a completely different sport.

Having the opportunity to bring skills I have learned in class into ScholarSpace also makes me excited to do the opposite. Gaining this hands-on experience through being a consultant is invaluable and I know will serve me well in the classroom and beyond.