Show/Do/Cue: A Model for Training Use of Software Tools
STEVEN SCHATZ, Professor Instructional Technologies San Francisco State University San Francisco, Calif. Introducing students to computer applications can be particularly time consuming and frustrating for both teacher and student. Lectures and demonstrations lose students because they have no foundation in using the program. Coaching is very teacher-time intensive. As students learn at different rates, a teacher must keep the quick learners occupied while not rushing the others. Computer-based training (CBT) is time-consuming to develop and, because of this, expensive to update and keep current with the seemingly endless stream of product upgrades. There seems to be no good way to introduce these programs. Once the student has gained basic understanding and experience with a program, teaching and learning is easier. Students can then learn more through questions, trial and error, presentation and books. However, getting students over that first hurdle in use and understanding in a timely and effective manner continues to be a challenge for instructors at all levels. Faced with the need to introduce several programs within a semester in a Master's-level course, I devised a technique called Show/Do/Cue that has consistently yielded excellent results. The Process Show/Do/Cue combines parts of established techniques -- using lecture, demonstration and modified CBT. In addition, the overriding rule is that Show/Due/Cue focuses on introducing the software -- getting the student comfortable with using the software. All lessons must be trimmed with this purpose in mind. The basic steps to Show/Do/Cue are: 1.Provide a very brief introduction to the software. 2.Show the class a finished project. 3.Quickly build a chunk of the finished product (5 minutes of building). Students are told to watch and not take notes. The purpose is to get a picture of the procedure, not to remember the steps. 4.Give the students a paper detailing the steps to complete. Students work in pairs and build their own piece during class. Teacher provides coaching as needed. 5.Finally, give students a computer-based tutorial that guides them through the same procedure. They are encouraged to go home and do the same exercise. The tutorial provides reminders for students as they work through the procedure for the third time. As you can see, there is nothing new in Show/Do/Cue. All these techniques are being used. The surprising result happens when they are used in conjunction. The strongest parts of lecture, demo, coaching, peer coaching and CBT combine to produce students who very quickly gain an understanding of even complex programs, apply that knowledge and build on it to produce advanced work in a short time.
The technique also provides a framework that makes good use of an instructor's time. Lecturing, while relatively quick for an instructor to produce, takes a long time in coaching when students try to apply lessons demonstrated. And with the most common software training technique of "teacher demo/student do," teachers often demonstrate such a large chunk of information that students are completely lost before they start working. As a result, the advanced students go off on tangents and the slow are left behind. CBT, since it must accommodate many possibilities while it trains, is usually both time consuming and expensive to create, which discourages updates. Show/Do/Cue provides a reasonable approach. I developed it to introduce Astound, a high-level presentation product, so examples will be drawn from that module. I am currently developing modules to introduce other programs. These are the steps to build a Show/Do/Cue module. Preparation -- Before the class As with most teaching, most of the work is front loaded. The instructor must design and build two projects before class: the project students will work on and the tutorial they will take home with them. The tutorial is covered in greater depth later in this paper. Student Project The project consists of three or four "activity chunks." An activity chunk consists of a series of steps that make something; preferably something that the next activity chunk builds on. A slide in a presentation program, a photo imported or edited in an image editing program, a ball bounced in an animation program, a paragraph written or formatted in a word processor are all activity chunks. Decide what skills each chunk teaches. Keep them all simple, particularly the first one. The real challenge is to teach only what is necessary to get started with the program! We tend to give students too much too soon. This only leads to confusion. A great example is the main window. When I introduce a program, my first impulse is to open the main window and describe all the tools and what they do. I looked up once while I was doing this and realized that most of the class was lost. Now I teach only the tools necessary to do a task and I only introduce them as they are needed. As you design the three- or four-chunk project, keep in mind -- less is more. The main goal is to get students comfortable with using the program. They can learn the more advanced features much more easily when they are comfortable with using the software. It is important that they have success from the beginning -- that their impression of the program is "I can do this." Putting Show/Do/Cue to Work in the Classroom Introduce When the class meets, introduce the program very briefly. Introduce the metaphor (Astound and many others use a slide show metaphor) or explain what the product is used for. A couple of brief examples are good. You can use the Wow! factor here -- examples that show the high end of what can be accomplished. However, also include an example that is within reach of the students' abilities. Don't go overboard. One or two very short examples are enough. Examples will mean more to students when they have worked with the program a bit. Until then, they have no idea about what is easy or hard within the program. Your goal here is to illustrate and categorize the program's utility. Be brief! In addition, give a very brief description of the Show/Do/ Cue technique, so students will know what to expect. Show -- Part 1 -- The Completed Project Show the completed project to the class. Let them get a cognitive model of what they will be working toward. Too often this is left out. It is not until the very end that students see what they are aiming toward. Suspense is fine in movies, but not in instruction. Example: The Astound project I use has three slides that detail the dangers of Attack Chickens, A Fowl Menace. The first slide uses text and transitions. The second slide shows importing a photo and introduces timing a slide. The third introduces interactivity by making a button and uses sound. A fourth slide that introduced Astound's very powerful graphing function proved to be too much for first-time users. Now I only use it when training corporate clients who specifically request graphing from the first. Show -- Part 2 -- Building chunk one Build the first activity chunk only (lecture/demo). Do it quickly, describing each step as you go. Encourage the class NOT to take notes. Explain that the goal is to get a feeling of the process, not to test their memory. Remind the class that you will give them a written list of steps and most will put their pens down. Building the first chunk should only take five minutes maximum. If it takes more, you will lose the students. Keep this first chunk as small as possible. Actually showing the chunk being built helps to cut down the amount of explanation you need to include in both the written directions and the computer tutorial. Instructions can now be very brief, saving you and students a great deal of time. Students often ask about other features during this show phase. Do not answer these questions now. Keep students on task during this phase of the lesson. Explain that once they have had success and completed the tasks, they will be free to explore. However, if they go exploring before, they invariably miss essential skills. Students are impatient, but if you keep each of the three chunks short, they will work through them all. Note: Connect either an LCD panel or a TV to the instructor station when possible. Encourage (require) students to turn off their computers. Attention must be focused on the brief building demonstration. Remind students throughout to think about the process, not each specific step. Remember, this first step must be short or students will lose track and confidence. Do Immediately after seeing the process, students must try it out. Working in pairs, they build the first chunk while an instructor provides coaching as needed. Pairing is preferred so students can help each other remember the process. This also makes better use of instructor time. Provide a printed or onscreen list of the steps to complete. If the instructor sees that one task is causing a problem for many students, repeating that part of the demo for the entire class will speed success. "Let students get a cognitive model of what they will be working toward." Notice how quickly students get their hands on the program. Directed in their exploration, they can have success relatively quickly and easily. Students will often want to try new things while building. As noted above, suggest they stay on task until completing the chunk. After initial success they can, and should, explore possibilities. This will give the students who finish first something to do. Show -- Part Three -- Build chunk two When all students have completed the first chunk, proceed with building chunk two. This can be done either after a break or at another class meeting. (See note on timing below.) Whenever it is done, proceed as before, focus on the process of building each chunk, then have students work in pairs to actually build it. Each chunk can be increasingly complex, but keep the building time limited to less than 10 minutes; five minutes is preferable. Cue The final step in this process is to give students a disk containing a tutorial that describes and shows each step in the process. Students can go home and repeat building the activity chunk by themselves. This step has made an enormous difference in student success. For instance, everyone has had the experience of sitting down to a procedure that was very clear in a class a few days before and being struck with what I call "Duh Syndrome." You know basically what needs to be done, but the actual "how-to" has gone out of your mind. The tutorial acts as a reminder. Students can also use it as a review whenever they return to using the program. Constructing this tutorial is time consuming, but not too painful. Unlike CBT, it d'es not have to consider every possible question. It d'es not really have to instruct. It is an interactive, multimedia digital aid. It covers the steps and has screen shots of both the process and the completed project. I built one in SuperCard and I am currently building one in Astound, as it allows construction on both PC and Mac platforms. Keep it simple. The students have already seen the process and have built it once. The reason for the tutorial is to act as a memory jog. I am refining the tutorial to include an interactive index, so students can go to a specific step, rather than be forced to page through all the steps. The tutorial fits on a floppy, which you prepare before class and give to each student. Also include the final project and the media elements (pictures, sounds) needed to construct the project. A Note About Timing It is preferable to introduce the program and do the first chunk during one class meeting. Then give the tutorial disks and wait until the next meeting to do the second and third steps. This timing gives the students a chance to absorb, play with, forget and remember the lessons from the first week. Students often work ahead and the second class meeting often g'es much more quickly. Ask students to bring in their version of the first chunk, because they will use it to build from on the second lesson. On the second meeting, very quickly rebuild the first chunk. Ask students to use the first slide they built during the week. Then build the next two chunks, one at a time. The biggest problem here is often with students who have worked ahead and want to get into more challenging parts of the program. Stay on course. Remind them to get through these first stages then answer specific questions afterwards. The Result Show/Do/Cue has produced remarkable results every time I have used it. Introducing a class to a program using lecture/ demo or printed tutorials took an average of three very frustrating weeks to gain minimal understanding. Using Show/Do/Cue as the instructional strategy, even with more complicated programs students did superior work in a shorter time and went on to self-learn more complex features. With three semesters of experience with different classes, the technique's value has been proven. Results have led to the creation of modules for other programs, which show similar results. Show/Do/Cue works as a framework for presenting introductory software tool training. I look forward to hearing other teachers' experiences applying this framework of techniques to other training areas. Steven Schatz is a Professor of Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University in California. He has been a consultant to K-12 educational software publishers, and consultant in instructional multimedia authoring, design, production and training to business. He is developing a CD-ROM version of his Astound tutorial, which will be released in September. E-mail: Schatz@earthlink.net Home Page: http://www.powerstart.com Products mentioned: Astound!; Gold Disk, Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., (800) 982-9888, http://www.gsm.com SuperCard; Allegiant Technologies, Inc., San Diego, Calif., (800) 255-8258, http://www.allegiant.com Considerations & Tips The biggest trick is to decide what is the minimum "get going understanding" for each program. There is a difference between the basic functionality of the program and the cool additional powers. Focus on basic functionality. A project that contains too much will take too long and be too frustrating. Keep it short. Trim often. The second trick is to decide what each chunk contains. Keep the first chunk as simple as possible. Resist the temptation to include more new ideas in. Every time you do, it adds frustration and confusion. A good rule of thumb is that it should take less than 10 minutes for you to build the first chunk. Five minutes is better. Stay on task. Don't throw in cool extra functionalities or explain the inner workings of a program, even when asked. These details are fine after the class has a firm foundation. During the first presentation, it will only confuse them. Keep it simple. In addition, have the students stick to the project. Encourage them to explore only after going through the first project. Use humor. Learning software is frustrating. It helps students if the project they are building is amusing. My Astound! Tutorial warns of the dangers of Attack Chickens, a Fowl Menace and students have told me they appreciated being able to laugh at the amount of time they were spending on building something so ridiculous.
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.