How Important Are Computers?
Many of you lack computer skills. You can search on the Internet, send email, and other basic tasks, but you’re quickly lost when something appears on the screen that looks different or stops working at home or work. (All together: Grrrr...)
So, just how important are computers in the laboratory, anyway?
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics site says: “...with the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment, computer skills are important.” These days, it’s hard to imagine a bigger (or is it smaller?) understatement.
Some practical questions:
Does computer “illiteracy” put me at a disadvantage in the lab? Many years ago, a supervisor told me the most important skill at any job is knowing where to find the right answers. That’s still true. Information literacy is “the ability to access, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources.” The computer is one source of information using one set of skills. Us old fogies can still do lab work, which still counts.
Will a lack of skills keep me trapped in my current position? Having said the above, computer skills are marketable. Indeed, it is now important in almost every profession. Good skills can make a difference for new college graduates without clinical experience.
If I don’t know about computers, what can I do? Computer skills are acquired the old-fashioned way: patience, mistakes, practice. It isn’t as simple as reading a procedure, which assumes a large set of transferable skills. Computers require a completely new, and in many cases incomprehensible, set. They are arbitrarily complicated, finicky beasts.
There are as many good ways to learn about computers as there are successful users. In many cases, it’s a matter of using the right tool for the job. In others, it’s curiosity. (Reading blogs is good!) If you’re lucky, you know geeks who are patient enough to show you once -- and again when you forget -- how to do something. Whatever works for you works best.