One a day? Really, that’s not hard. When you spend a little time at the computer, you’re bound to learn something. Amid all that clicking and searching and inevitable troubleshooting, it’d be hard not to!

In fact, your challenge is likely not to learn something new, but to realize that you’ve learned something. So stop and think for a few seconds when leaving the computer. Did you try something new? Did you use some feature of an application for the first time? Did you look up the solution to some question? Give it a little thought, and you’ll probably think of several new things you learned.

Taking the moment to recognize that you’ve learned something will really help fix it into your memory, and also builds your confidence that you’re becoming adept. True, learning one thing may sound like a drop in the bucket, but one new thing a day is well over 300 a year – and 300 bits of know-how is a nice splash in that bucket.

Active learning

Learn your apps

Go to a familiar application and poke through its menus a bit. Remember, the purpose of menus is to tell you up-front what sort of commands you can give an application (and, of course, to let you give those commands with a simple click). In that sense, the menus offer an overview of what the application can do.

Now open the application’s Preferences or Settings. (You should see this somewhere in the menus.) What’s in the Preferences? See any new features you can enable, or features that have been enabled all along without your knowing it? You may see ways to customize the application much more to your liking.

Applications usually offer some sort of “help” feature, typically an on-screen manual, or a window letting you look up questions and answers. Check out “help” for your application. You’ll probably see “how to” instructions for nifty features you didn’t know the application could do, or ways to finish common tasks more quickly.

Learn the computer, too

As I keep stressing, using and learning “the computer” is almost entirely a matter of using and learning applications, not the machine itself. But the machine itself still calls for a little learning.

First, go to wherever your computer keeps its main settings – System Preferences, or Control Panels, or whatever it’s called. This application (or, possibly, collection of small applications) lets you customize your computer in many ways – screen brightness, sound volume, the speed at which the mouse moves the pointer on the screen, whether the screen dims or the computer sleeps when you’re not using it, how the computer should react when you insert a CD or DVD, and so on. Poke around – just take note of how things are before you make any changes, so you can change them back! (And you should probably not mess with things like network settings unless you know what you’re up to.)

Take a look at the hardware, too. Do you know how to insert and remove CDs and DVDs? Are there keyboard keys, or buttons on the hardware, that will adjust screen brightness and sound? What kind of sockets – “ports”, as they’re called – do the keyboard, mouse, printer and so on plug into? Are there unused ports to accommodate more devices?

More learning

There’s lots more you can do to learn. Stay tuned for a list of suggestions.

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