Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Training Technology Trainers: Lessons from the River

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Training Technology Trainers: Lessons from the River

Article excerpt

Your heart is racing, adrenaline is rushing through your body, and you're reeling with the "fight or flight" conflict. You wonder why you agreed to do this in the first place. Are you teaching new technology trainers or conquering Class V rapids on the Rio Grande? Could be either: Success in both of these endeavors requires many of the same elements. I have trained hundreds of librarians to be successful technology trainers. With the tips in this article, you too can develop a successful train-the-trainer program. I'll cover trainer anxieties, critical skills, understanding learner motivation, and planning.

Getting into the Water

With train-the-trainer workshops, it is most effective to have a small group (14 or less). Try to schedule at least 2 days; there is plenty to cover. I like to hold 2-day workshops with a week between the days so that the trainers will have had time to practice. Have trainers present short classes, even in small groups. This allows for them to practice, observe different styles, and share knowledge. Survey trainers to discover specific training interests. Videotape trainers to help them improve (this is a great learning tool, which I'll discuss more). Incorporate interesting themes, prizes, learning games, fun foods, and activities to help make the workshop enjoyable and facilitate learning.

Fear of Drowning: Dealing with Trainers' Anxieties

The most common concerns of new trainers--and new rafting instructors--are fear of failure (in both your training environment and their own), lack of confidence in front of groups, dealing with difficult or unexpected situations, and planning training. The first of these you can deal with upfront by addressing the trainers' fear of being evaluated in your workshop. You can help to alleviate this stress by acknowledging their previous experience and providing opportunities for them to voice concerns. At one workshop with a fishing theme, I had trainers write concerns, questions, and reasons for attending on brightly colored fish. They taped these onto a pond (a large blue tablecloth on the wall). I discovered valuable information: Some resented required attendance; others had public speaking fears. It also revealed which training topics they were interested in. Also, be sure to let trainers know that, in their own classes, audiences will want them to succeed. Learners don't want to sit through a class feeling uncomfortable, watching a nervous speaker--they want a dynamic trainer and to have a good time!

Practice is the key to trainers' becoming more confident. Encourage them to seek out opportunities to speak to groups. A great way to build their confidence is to videotape training. This helps them to identify areas for improvement far better than having someone else offer advice. Trainers usually dread this activity but then find that they forget about the videotaping while they're focused on training. Let them watch their videos independently to avoid embarrassment. Usually, their training is always better than they expected.

All new instructors fear unexpected situations arising in their classrooms. You can get common anxieties out in the open and help newbies to feel more comfortable by telling them humorous stories about your own past training mishaps. This will let them know that although some things may go wrong, with preparation, they will be able to deal with them. Using personal stories related to the training topic is a great way to avoid boring, still water.

Beginning trainers often have difficulty when they face planning. They fear that they will run out of time or always wrap up early. It is important to show new trainers how to set classroom goals and objectives, and how to break class time into manageable, 20- to 30-minute segments. Providing trainers with planning tips and techniques will help them to approach lesson planning with less anxiety and more self-assurance, and so I will cover planning in more depth later in this article. …

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