“Once upon a time, young people helped senior citizens across the street. While this is still a good idea, itâ€™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]
I had been holding off on linking to the Web Tech Guy and Angry Staff Person video/blog post because I have mixed feelings about the idea generally even though I know it was a big hit when they showed it off at the conference. Then it hit MetaFilter and I found the discussion there helped me not only flesh out my own feelings about it but gave me a look into how other professionals from different perspectives saw it. Most notably, I was interested in this comment by Larry Cebula who works for Washington State and runs an award-winning northwest history blog.
I work for the Washington State Digital Archives. We have something like 80 million documents, mostly from Washington State counties, online and add millions more per month. After years of resistance the counties are really hopping aboard and have become great fans of our service.
But still we get these complaints and worries. It is even worse with archives than museums because so many county and local archives count on revenues for access to fund their offices. We are about to put up thousands of cases from county courts, some dating back to the late 1800s. But the county insists that we display only the top half of the first page of each record–and charge 25 cents a page for users to even view the records beyond that first half page! It is anti-democratic and eliminates many of the potential advantages of digital history, but there you have it.
Slightly related librarian topic over at AskMetaFilter, a question about questions: What questions do library users most often ask?
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]
I’m aware that accessing someone’s conference planner is not the same level of hackery as stealing their credit cards or breaking into their email account. However, I would just like to say that having an event planner where the password is not only the same for every user (until it’s changed) but also printed right there on the web page, turns the whole idea of having a password or any sort of security into a big joke. How do we teach librarians what good technology looks like if this is how we make them interact with us? For the record, using just the ALA Staff list, I was able to log in to someone else’s event planner in under a minute. The vendors get their password in an email, not much better.
I went to this page from Nicole’s post (I’m not going to the conference) just to see if it was really true that the page claims it is “best viewed in IE” which is yet another “tech don’t” in the world of 2008 browsers so much so that it calls into question all the rest of the site.
I don’t belong to ALA anymore. I did my time, paid my dues, donated a lot of service time to the organization and tried to be gentle and patient as they steered a big organization through the minefield of technological change. The Event Planner has been an outsourced, broken and insecure tool since they started using it. I’d like to see ALA do better, but my optimism that this will happen is flagging.
Sarah Houghton-Jan has written a great presentation that she gave as the keynote to the Arizona Library Association’s annual conference. It’s just a few MB pdf and you can get a lot of her points just by reading through it. It’s full of humor and good ideas. Go read: Sustainable Technology in a 2.0 World