ways to help new computer users

“Once upon a time, young people helped senior citizens across the street. While this is still a good idea, it’s just as important to help them setup their Facebook page.”

This short article makes a few points very well. Many novice tech users are experts in other things and get easily frustrated feeling like they’re back at square one. That sort of thing needs to be considered when you’re figuring out the best way to approach teaching topics. Additionally, find ways for people to succeed, whatever their level of skill is. This can be a challenge for people who are really brand new, but just having simple taks like mouse proficency and “send an email to me. Oh look there it is” can give peopel the confidence they need to explore on their own. [thanks barbara]

me-generated content – my course handouts

I teach a bunch of little “Getting Started with X” night classes at the local vocational high school. They’re fun. I’ve been doing them for years now. They’re the sort of classes you’d teach at a library if you had a computer lab, but the libraries here don’t have computer labs. They’re usually 8-12 hours broken down into two hour classes. Given that, you might be surprised how little we cover, but we go slow, do a LOT of review, and do a lot of things together so that everyone can keep up.

I’m lucky to have access to the computers in the lab, so I can put documents and example spreadsheets on them ahead of time. One of the most important things in teaching novice users is that they’re often bad typists so saying “Type a few paragraphs and then we’ll edit them” is a recipe for disaster and frustration. I usually have them work from some standard text like The Gift of the Magi or something I’ve copied from Wikipedia. I’m also very clear about what sorts of things on the computers are customizeable and what are functions of how the computers work. For new users, they can’t tell what’s a setting — all those annoying pop-up warnings using Internet Explorer when you go to a secure site for example — and what’s something you can’t easily edit — how the cursor behaves. One of the biggest thigns I had to learn is that a lot of my students have no idea what the word “default” means, so when you say “Oh that’s just the way MS Word is set as a default…” that’s not a sense-making sentence to them. We spend half a class just adjusting the settings, turning off grammar-checker, adding and removing toolbars, so they know how to do that if they ever get a computer at home.

It’s fun work and I really enjoy it. Over the years people have emailed me asking for advice so I’ve zipped up my class handouts and sample documents and made them available here. Please feel free to use them in your classes in any way you’d like to. If you do, please remove my name and email address first :)

Enjoy!

Plug: Intellectual freedom: Fundamentals and Current Events

Just a quick note, I am teaching a one-day continuing education class at Simmons’ Mount Holyoke campus on Sunday afternoon, March 30th. The topic is Intellectual Freedom, basically providing the foundations of the idea and then going over current topic type issues that we’ve seen in libraryland lately. Here’s the official description. If you’re in need of CE credits or just want a refresher, feel free to sign up.

The importance of intellectual freedom is a cornerstone of modern librarianship in the US, and yet for many people is only understood as an abstract idea. This workshop will cover the foundations of intellectual freedom in American librarianship and provide concrete examples of how the concept applies to today’s library environment.

We will look at the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, and state library privacy laws as well as legislation which abridges the freedoms of library workers and library users. We will discuss the thorny issues that arise when intellectual freedom principles conflict with local practices and cultures and ways to unpack and address those issues. Social software and its implications for intellectual freedom in libraries will be another facet we will address. Participants will gain an understanding of ALA’s work laying down the foundation for intellectual freedom and leave with concrete examples of IF in action in today’s libraries.

Teaching Tech – a talk for the Michigan Library Consortium

I gave a talk this afternoon for a one day workshop given by the Michigan Library Consortium about teaching technology in libraries. It was a keynote-ish talk so more “big picture” talking and less “this is how we do it.”

To that end, I did a new-from-the-ground-up talk about technology instruction and even wrote out notes for all of my slides so people who weren’t there could maybe follow along later. As anyone who has seen me speak knows, I tend to extemporanize (sp?) quite a bit so while the bones of the talk are in the notes, I also told a lot of stories about the libraries I work in and waved my hands around a lot. You can see the notes and a mov or pdf of the slides here: Teaching Tech in Libraries: what are we doing?

I’m still trying to find a good way to put slideware talks online without having to re-give the talk and toss it into Slideshare. Big thanks to all the folks from Michigan for being such a great audience and Twitterfolks for giving me some good advice. (go be Flickr friends with Kevin to see more (admittedly, not that fascinating) photos of this event)