Ctrl +

A few months back, I ran across a brief story on some blog or other indicating that few people knew how to use Ctrl F to find a particular word or name in an online text. Frankly, I was both shocked and appalled. I was shocked because I've been searching online documents and web pages for years and I couldn't imagine an online life without that ability; I was appalled at myself because I'd never heard of doing it by pressing the Ctrl and F keys at the same time. Yes, though I'd been the "find" command for years, I always used Firefox's Edit menu to do it.

It's always interesting to me to watch the facility with which my students interface with their computers. They know shortcuts I simply don't, and they can get to them instantly. In their presence, I feel obsolete.

At the same time, I can also recognize that I've got some internet chops they typically don't. As clumsy as I am when I manipulate keys and cursors on a given page, when it comes to finding the page, I am generally more effective than the teenagers I teach. Basically, though they're incredibly good at getting their computers to ask questions, they're not good at choosing which questions to ask.

Google, for example, baffles a great many of them. They don't know what to search for. They'll type a question into the search bar and hope that whatever hits they get will answer the question. They usually don't know about putting a phrase or a question in quotation marks, meaning they'll often get answers to questions only tangentially related to their inquiries. If their first search doesn't produce results, they're all too likely to be stuck; they can't think of how to rephrase their search terms. In fact, I'd say my students are somewhat more likely to use Ask.com than Google, largely because they seem to feel Ask will deliver a more palatable response--which it often will. It just won't give you the best response.

Thanks to years of study and a lot of time spent searching the recesses of the System of Tubes<sup>TM</sup>, I have attained a certain facility with search engines, as well as a healthy degree of skepticism, a certain skill in critical thinking, and a thorough awareness of Snopes.com's usefulness. These are not things possessed by the typical 14-year-old male.

Then again, I shouldn't criticize. Despite years of increasingly crappy vision, I only recently realized that I didn't have to learn how to edit a website in order to increase the size of petercashwell.com's stylish but tiny print. All I had to do was use the Zoom command (Ctrl and + together) to make the font bigger.

I've known how to zoom for years. It just never occurred to me to hit those keys and leave that zoom status in place for my own site, which any nearsighted teenager would have done long ago.

oldfart.jpgI think that means I have to get off my own lawn now.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on October 14, 2011 2:00 PM.

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