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 :)


Happy New Year! Some 2009 Goals.

Happy New Year to everyone. I actually took the holiday season pretty well off this year, for possibly the first time in the last decade. I still did a little work for MetaFilter and kept up with email, but my posting frequency went down to almost nothing which is okay by me. So, I hope you had a good holidaytime.

I have a few personal resolution-type things over on but I’ve also got a few work-related ones. Last year all my assiduous recordkeeping was interrupted by a hard drive crash, so I was doing great on keeping receipts and tracking invoices until about August and it fell apart. This year I’ve already got a weekly backup system in place so I’m anticipating no similar three month setbacks. A non-librarian mailing list that I’m on has been talking about 2009 plans and one of the main bits of wisdom that came down the wire in the last month was this

Resolution: Don’t be good at things you hate.

For me, what this means is just because I’m good at solving technical problems, it doesn’t mean I need to always do it as a job (or hobby), or do it for people who aren’t decent about it (whether that means decently polite, decently paying or decently convenient). I did a good job last year limiting the amount I was teaching — I love teaching but working within the chaos of a school environment was difficult and frustrating for me — and I think that really added to the ease of the other things I did in my life that I loved.

So, for 2009 I have some work related goals

– Automate the Tunbridge Library
– Maintain the VLA site to a degree that people are happy with
– Give interesting well thought out talks to interested people in neat places
– Keep teaching classes and drop-in time at a level that’s not exhausting
– Be a better “social” and real life networker and library friend to people new in the profession
– Keep writing for Computers in Libraries and try to get them to call what I write a column and not a department.
– Maintain this blog and launch fun new project blog (details forthcoming, sorry to be a cryptic jerk)
– Share as much of my personal work content as possible (see next post)
– Make a little movie about my many jobs

What are you thinking about doing?