Ease of Use is a Problem?

I work with complicated software and various engineering and hardware problems every day. Such is the life in post production. The average consumer should not have to deal with the issues I deal with. That is why there are software bundles like iLife to make things easier.

Christopher Dawson, technology director for a Massachusetts public school district disagrees. He thinks software like iLife is too easy and impairs students:

It simply hands so much to the students that they struggle with software (whether Windows, Linux, or even pro-level software on the Mac) that isn’t so brilliantly plug and play. Yes, iLife rocks in many ways, but the level of spoonfeeding it encourages actually makes me think twice about using it widely, especially at the high school level.

So his argument is that some software is difficult to use, therefore easy software should not be allowed.

When working in a professional setting, yes, you need to understand your tools inside and out to better understand how to get your work done. I see the effect lack of knowledge has all the time with edits we get back from freelance editors working in Final Cut Pro at home. We get 16:9 anamorphic footage edited letterboxed in 4:3 sequences, tapes captured as stereo instead of split-mono,  extraneous use of layered plugins to achieve a “look,” 24 layers of video with 76 layers of audio, most of which are empty… the list goes on.

That said, these are technical problems and not creative ones. When you’re in school (especially high school), little should stand in the way between the creative vision that is in your head and the final result, including software. There’s no reason for students to know NTSC frame sizes, what 3:2 pulldown is,  or the difference between RGB and YUV, that is, unless they want to learn more. In which case, let them grow out of the simple software and use the more advanced packages.

As for the assumption that using easy software causes students to struggle with more compliated software? I’ve been on both sides. Many, many times, it doesn’t matter what you’re used to, complicated software is still complicated.

If high school students are having trouble picking up “pro-level software on the Mac,” it’s not because they’re used to plug-and-play. There’s a reason it’s called “pro” software ((For the record, I started out on Media100 as a freshman in high school, then moved to Premiere & Final Cut Pro my junior year. I would’ve killed for something like iMovie where I didn’t need to make sure I captured my video as Motion JPEG-A through the Aurora card for it to play back out successfully)).

[via Daring Fireball]