Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Teaching People to Be Savvy Travelers in a Technological World: Too Many Technology Classes Are about Reaching Goals That Trainers Have Set Rather Than Teaching Skills That Students Actually Need. I've Chosen the Road Less Traveled-Teaching Concepts That People Can Build on for Years Rather Than Steps That They Can Use for Months

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Teaching People to Be Savvy Travelers in a Technological World: Too Many Technology Classes Are about Reaching Goals That Trainers Have Set Rather Than Teaching Skills That Students Actually Need. I've Chosen the Road Less Traveled-Teaching Concepts That People Can Build on for Years Rather Than Steps That They Can Use for Months

Article excerpt

The differences between being technology-challenged and being technology-literate are similar to the differences between being an inexperienced traveler and being a savvy traveler. So it follows that a good technology trainer is like a good tour guide, handling logistical details and creating experiences that are customized to meet individual interests and that will empower travelers to take future trips on their own.

Travel and Training

Two major themes in my life in the last 10 years have been travel and technology training. I hope that I have become more savvy at both during that decade. Some of the travel was for work (around the country for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's U.S. library program and now around Kansas for the Northeast Kansas Library System), and some of it was for pleasure and adventure. I started doing technology training in 1996 and, as I was preparing to write this article, I considered what has changed during those 10 years and what has remained the same. I was surprised to realize how many things have actually remained the same. Teaching a newbie to use the Web in 1996 meant introducing him to the mouse, explaining the use of a Web browser, and highlighting some relevant Web sites. Teaching a newbie to use the Web in 2006 means introducing him to the mouse, explaining the use of a Web browser, and highlighting some relevant Web sites. Many things have, of course, changed. In 1996, I would have been teaching people to use Yahoo! and the class would have been amazed that we were getting thousands of results from our searches. In 2006, I focus on Google and the class is amazed to know that we are searching through billions of pages. I think that the most significant change however, has been in my attitude and my approach to technology training.

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Training: Traditional Versus Technological Literacy

My use of handouts is one example that illustrates the shift in my approach. When I first started doing technology training, I spent hours and hours preparing perfect handouts. I included screen shots and careful step-by-step directions. I felt that success meant an error-free handout that participants would be able to easily follow. In my current classes, I use handouts completely differently. I never use screen shots and very rarely include step-by-step instructions. I made this shift not only because I saw how quickly technology changed and handouts became outdated, but also because I realized that those recipe-style handouts were actually a disservice to my trainees. I now use handouts to provide information about additional resources, to share examples of usage, and to help trainees understand the larger context.

I think the change in my training mind-set boils down to this: I used to seek the end result of trainees mastering specific skills, but now I realize that the end result needs to be trainees having skills and abilities and attitudes that are flexible and adaptable. That's technological literacy. Most traditional technology training involves a trainer determining several learning objectives; particular skills that they feel the participants must have. The training is then designed to demonstrate those skills and to allow the participants to try the skills out too. There are a couple of problems with this sort of technology training. First, it is centered around the goals that have been established by the trainer rather than on the actual needs of the participants. Second, it does not encourage independent thinking, but instead encourages dependence on the trainer. I've chosen to travel the less-traditional path of teaching concepts rather than steps.

One benefit is that, by delivering interactive training that seeks to increase each individual's technological literacy, training sessions can much more successfully meet the needs of varying skill levels within one class. Also, participants will learn transferable skills that will serve them not only immediately after leaving the training session, but in the long-term as well. …

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