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The part about memorizing rote steps is roughly what you would expect from any kind of beginner in any field or skill set. But the part about being all tentative seems like a difference between a beginner who is older and one who is a little kid. The old person has spent a lifetime learning that rash actions can have bad consequences, while the kid hasn't yet. In other words the kid doesn't know or care about breaking the computer, and so probably learns faster as a result. (Good thing it's hard to break the computer and the consequences are usually nil. Wouldn't necessarily recommend the same approach for something like base-jumping or neurosurgery.)

I wonder how much it would help these people if you framed it more as an interaction with a person. Which it is. For example, telling them things like "OK so the programmer who wrote this told the computer to grab that bit you just typed, and display it for you over here [point, point] for your reference." In other words I wonder whether knowing a little about what's going on inside the thing, and the fact that it was just some silly ordinary dufus that wrote the software, helps a person like that be a better end-user.

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