Transfer of editing skills between two microcomputer-based word processors



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Acquisition of computer-related skills has become crucial for success in school, the workplace and society at large. Unlike subjects such as mathematics, computer skills change frequently as new technology is developed. It is important, then, to understand the influence that previously-learned knowledge and skills have upon learning new knowledge and skills — an effect called transfer of learning. Research on transfer has concentrated on specific transfer effects in behaviorally-oriented verbal learning experiments. Recently, however, cognitive psychologists have developed theories that describe transfer in terms of internal cognitive structures and that attempt to explain general or far transfer effects. Based on these theories, it was hypothesized that certain computing environments are more likely than others to foster transfer of computer-related skills. In particular, the Macintosh, utilizing "intuitive" interface devices such as pictorial icons and mouse-controlled selection of commands, should foster transfer to a more "opaque" computing environment that required recall and keying of language-oriented commands. Each of 81 undergraduate students with minimal computer experience was randomly assigned to one of two experiments. In Experiment 1, the treatment group learned editing skills on Macintosh MacWrite. The control group performed a neutral task on the Macintosh. After 48 hours, both groups learned editing skills on Wordstar for the IBM PC/AT, and then used Wordstar to perform a "real world" editing (far transfer) task. In Experiment 2, the sequence of word processors was reversed; the treatment group learned Wordstar editing skills first, then both groups learned MacWrite and performed the novel editing task on MacWrite. [...]



Word processing--Study and teaching, Transfer of training