Digital Design Theory: Look Who’s Talking


Digital Design Theory: When I started teaching Microsoft Office, I was surprised how many people recorded my classes and how many audited the classes a second time. Who would want to hear eight hours of Excel Formulas…again?

We wanted to capture the spirit and action of the live classroom into videos. We also wanted to link all of the video lessons to our Microsoft Office Specialist certification training: 100% video coverage.

Now Appearing: Trying to capture the Live Performance into little video lessons has been challenging. Speaking in front of an audience is different from writing a textbook. The Computer Mama is a dynamic speaker: humorous, engaging, and knowledgeable. Live classes have a relaxed pace: there is time to wait for the laughter or the a-ha responses. The videos seem to hurry-up. I find that I am editing the lessons and making them simple so that we can complete the steps in less than 10 minutes. The books have far more details and examples of how the software could be useful.


Movies vs Books: Writing a textbook in the same manner as talking live in the classroom does not translate very well. The language of certification books is formal. The material is specific: “Click on Cell B2.” However, even with the constraints of technical writing, the Computer Mama books have an author. There is someone with a voice and an attitude. Students enjoy the sidebar comments from the Computer Mama and the picture stories in the margins. In comparison, many of the Microsoft Office books used in colleges are institutional: a collection of various writers with different methods of teaching.


Look Who’s Talking: We are working on different approaches to the narration on the little videos. Our BETA videos are available on YouTube. Keep in mind that publishing on YouTubeflattens the video and removes the links to the online certification topics.


The Computer Mama Guides to Microsoft Office Certification Training 

Order the Books at
Teachers: Download the lessons at
BETA YouTube Channel: The Computer Mama Guides
Outstanding Certification Training:
It is possible to cover technical material in a methodical, concise method… and still have fun.
This course offers you detailed, effective instruction to guide you through multiple lab exercises. Instructionally, you are provided with consistent and logical content, opportunities to practice the skills presented.
November 11, 2012 ProCert Labs certifiies the Microsoft Excel 2010 Advanced Guide for the Microsoft Vendor of Approved Courseware program.
I did it! I passed the PowerPoint exam! She said it was the highest score she has seen. I scored 967 (required: 700) and I got 100% on everything but Working with Visual Content which was 89%!” – Student
Emmitt Kelly Jr., Pt Barnum Circus from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank

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Digital Design Theory: Observation, Orientation and Notation

Digital Design Theory: Observation, Orientation and Notation
Good teaching has a method for transferring knowledge. In math, students are taught theorems and proofs. The results may be written as a formula: a2 + b2 = c2. Chemistry has a specific language for teaching and documentation as well: H2O. Music has a written language, too, or we would have lost the works of Beethoven and Mozart. And so does computer technology.
Observation, Orientation and Notation: The Computer Mama method comes from years of teaching online and in the classroom.  We have been able to take a complex subject and teach it plain and simple.
Observation: Using the Words Each lesson explains the objective and how todays’ technology available can meet the goals. There are many ways to get the job done. Students want to know which ones work best.
Orientation: Thinking in Pictures Our Microsoft Office certification lessons include at least one image that shows the entire screen as well as a close up of the particular option. Menu Maps at the beginning of each lesson help the student focus on which Ribbons can complete the task.
Notation: Writing it Down Computer technology uses Breadcrumbs to document how someone can find one button among hundreds.  Breadcrumbs are printed above each image in our computer lessons so that our students can find their way back.
We teach the way you learn

“I did it! I passed the PowerPoint exam! She said it was the highest score she has seen. I scored 967 (required: 700) and I got 100% on everything but Working with Visual Content which was 89%!”– V.S., Student, Community College of Rhode Island

We write the way you teach

“Your instructions were great! They executed the skills with little to no problems. I was still able to help on some things which I enjoyed! Thanks so much!!”  -K.M., Teacher, TeachersPayTeachers


Emmitt Kelly Jr., Teacher,  from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank

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Digital Design Theory: Watching a video does not make you an expert

Digital Design Theory: Watching a video does not make you an expert

We were late to my daughter’s birth at St Joseph’s Hospital because we were watching This Old House on PBS. My husband and I were avid fans of the programs that recycled old houses back to their glory days. However, watching TV did not make me an expert. My roof has a hole in it and I have no experience making repairs. I have lots of knowledge but my hands have never touched a hammer.

I would make the same comparison with learning computer applications: you can’t become a skilled professional just watching the videos. At some point, your hands have to learn the steps. Expertise is knowledge in motion.

Videos in a Flipped Classroom:  The best use of videos is to demonstrate a sequence of events. Students get to see the project from start to finish and how the instructor handled the options.

I applied this concept to an Intro to Computer Productivity class at Washtenaw Community College. It is a required course that teaches beginning Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Here’s the plan I announced: If all of the students watched the videos prior to class, then we could walk through the 100 point projects together each Friday. Everyone would pass the course with high marks.

This worked out better than I hoped. As an instructor, I was pleased to teach students who understood the material. They were ready and informed. Students who did not watch the videos quickly learned that they were at a disadvantage when we worked on the various documents, spreadsheets and presentations. They did not know where to find the options so their progress was very slow.

Win-Win-Win:  This class has 97% attendance and their productivity skills are excellent. My students are getting between 90-100% on all of the assignments, including the quizzes and homework. Everyone wins: the students, the college and the future employer who gains an asset.


Emmitt Kelly Jr., Computer Whiz, from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank

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Does the picture fit or not?

Today, a news article announced that the GDI grew at a fantastic rate of 3.6%.
The article from Forbes indicates that there is a picture of the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, Department of Commerce. The image next to the article is the iconic Hollywood sign.

So, miscue or fact checking?

Google News December 6, 2013 5:13 AM

Google News December 6, 2013 5:13 AM

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Computers and Babies

Trying to juggle a computer and a baby is an on-again, off-again affair.  Depending on the age of the kid, you may or may not be able to steal time away on the computer.

I always figured that I could get on the computer while the new baby was sleeping.  Sure, I knew that newborns only sleep for a few hours at a time, catnapping all day and night between feedings, but the average newborn still sleeps about 20 hours a day.  Average… no, my son wasn’t average.

I think I went through computer withdrawal those first months, while my son claimed every moment of my attention.  If not for escaping to work at my night job, I would have been nearly completely deprived of my computer time.

And on top of this, I didn’t even have time to install the other really neat thing I got that June: a copy of Office 2010.  Yes, I will equate new software with being as fun as a newborn baby.  Maybe more so at times, since software doesn’t cry.

Finally, my son began to grow and now I can steal some time on the computer.  My little laptop had become a very useful tool.  It’s little more than a netbook, but it’s small enough that I can balance it on my lap while racing toy cars with one free hand.  How do you think I’m writing this post, anyway?

Of course, at the toddler age, my son is very, very interested in anything that falls in either of the two categories: things that Momma is going and things that get a reaction from Momma.  My computer falls into both, since my attention is on it and, more importantly, when my son touches, pokes, or pushes it, he gets a reaction from me.

I know that my son will continue to grow.  He’ll learn more to play on his own.  Make some friends, go off to school.  My computer time will, slowly, return.  While I often miss the time I used to spend on the computer—writing, usually, or communicating with friends and other folks online—I don’t feel any desire to rush these years with my son.  My computer will always be here, in some form or another (though probably a desktop with REAL keyboard, but that’s a musing for another post), my son will only ever be this age once.

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Thank you, Steve Jobs

For 8 years I supported my family and earned a living on my Mighty Mac.
All this and the Flying Toasters Screen Saver.
It was FUN to discover something new every day.

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Thinking in Pictures

The Penny W. Stamp Distinguished Speaker program invited Temple Grandin to Ann Arbor last Thursday, September 9, 2010. Dr. Grandin has become world famous for her work with cows-cattle retaining systems. She is the first autistic woman to give a voice “from the inside.” The presentation has sponsored by the Art School, and was nominally focused on thinking in pictures. I could see the young art students looking puzzled-wondering why they had to go to a lecture and look at cows.

Temple spoke very clearly on how she, as a high functioning Asperger, or “Aspie,” perceives the world as a series of images that she stores, like icons, in categories.

I have always been fascinated by how my mind works. I see pictures in sequence, numbers in color and music in three dimensions. However, I cannot remember the names in a Periodic table or the words in a simple prayer unless I sing it. Autism is a spectrum disorder and Temple’s work lets us know more about ourselves, as well as her.

Here is a link to her website:

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When I grow up I want to be a…

When I grow up I want to be a Microsoft Presenter: I have always thought it would be cool to be the Microsoft Evangelist: the star who walks on the stage and demonstrates incredibly rich software. I got my wish!

On April 29th, I introduced Microsoft Office 2010. We partnered with Mott Community College for the official Microsoft Office 2010 Sneak Peek. We used Microsoft Office for what it does best: communicate. The merges included mail labels as well as email blasts. I did the digital wizardry. Doris Stromer, Site manager, served lunch for all of our guests.

As a Microsoft Presenter, you can access the marketing and branded materials for your event. The PowerPoint animations are quite astounding. Someone had a lot of time on their hands and they were very creative….

I showed a few steps in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. The demonstrations went well.

Microsoft Office 2010 is the one. The force is strong in this one.

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