One of the things I do a lot lately is write email to people who ask me librarian-type questions. Sometimes the answers are more widely applicable and I figured I should note them somewhere. This was a reply to a question from a Drop-in Time student who wanted to know about ways to learn “new skills” for older students who might need to learn tech for work or just know what’s out there. How does a librarian know where to point people?
Hey there — yeah the 23 Things stuff is a good place to start exploring. The other things I mentioned that I think you wrote down
– Universal Class through the library
– Khan Academy
– GCFLearnFree for basic skills
The other things that is a bit more on the “fun” end of the spectrum but can get some tech interactive experience AND feel like you are part of a project is looking for crowdsourcing things that people do online to help enhance cultural institutions digital data. So I think of things like this…
Citizen Archivist at the National Archives
Text Correct Cambridge Newspapers at Cambridge Public Library
Smithsonian Digital Volunteers at the Smithsonian Institution
These don’t always help people who need paying work, but can give people more familiarity interacting in an online environment which can translate into better skills which they’ve learned in a more interesting and engaging environment than just “Watch this video, now try this stuff” Because of Vermont’s unusually low tech saturation (for reasons we discussed a little) there are very few, if any, of these tech projects based in VT or centered around Vermont resources. And RSVP doesn’t have as much of a hold here as it does in other places.
You can poke around this list here and see if anything else piques your interest.
I’m a bit of a scab-picker as far as technology goes. I’m more interested in how stuff breaks than how it works when it all goes well. This is why I do more troubleshooting than tech creation. I’m good at it and I enjoy the problem-solving angles of it. As a technology instructor in a rural location, I sometimes feel like I’m dealing more with broken stuff than stuff that works. Given this, having an approach to brokenness that isn’t just “Oh, that’s not supposed to happen…” is key to helping people feel comfortable with technology. Leigh Anne Vrabel who runs the Library Alchemy blog has a concise post that summarizes a way to move forward inhabiting this sort of world.
Technology has to be supported by brotherhood, sisterhood, understanding and compassion.
And if I can paraphrase, I’d have to say “We’re all in this together and we haven’t all learned until everyone is leaning.” I’ve definitely been guilty of throwing up my hands trying to teach someone something because they had so much emotion wrapped up in why the computer “didn’t like them” that they couldn’t follow steps to do the actions they theoretically wanted to do.
Just like people who choose to live in the frozen north up here do so “for a reason” I think that most people who don’t know how to use a computer in 2009 — similar to people who don’t drive, who don’t have a telephone or who don’t have electricity — don’t know for a reason. For some people that’s an active reason, they’re not interested, they don’t see a need for it, they’re already busy enough, but for some people it’s a passive reason, they’re resistant to change, they’re easily frustrated, they have a disability that makes technology difficult and no one to help them with adaptive tech, they’re poor. As a technology instructor, part of my job is making technology a genuine option for people who have a need for it, not to sell it to people who don’t want to buy it. At the same time I explain what technology actually IS, apart from the television commercials and relentless boosterism about the promise of the Internet. That’s my interpretation of “technology with heart” [ttw]
Upgrades don’t wipe out all your coursework if you use a textbook and a notebook instead of WebCT. This is embarassing, honestly. Switch to a new “learning management system” lose all your old work.
Books Building Bridges is a group of librarians, booksellers, activists and others who use literature and community events as a way of helping bridge the gaps between people in Iraq and the U.S. They create curricula, produce teaching guides and sponsor events among other things. Inspired by the book The Librarian of Basra the self-described “small but intrepid” group is always looking for people to lend a hand, or just to get on board.
Books Building Bridges is a community-building project developed in order to acknowledge and foster a common human desire for learning, authentic connection and a healthy society while transcending political divisions in the United States and the geographic and social distance between the United States and Iraq. Books Building Bridges was inspired by Jeanette Winter’s book, The Librarian of Basra, which chronicles the work of Basra librarian Alia Muhammed Baker who, with her community, saved 30,000 volumes from being destroyed during the current war with Iraq.