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Maximizing Your Harvest: Technology Training Tips

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If you work in a public library, you know there is definitely a thirst for knowledge when it comes to technology. Providing technology access, services and training is just not an option anymore. According to the FCC, digital literacy is one of the top three reasons Americans don’t use PCs and the Internet, with 46% of non-users lacking the necessary skills. 

To support the Library Edge Initiative, we've been sharing amazing stories of how libraries are meeting their community needs for tech help related to employment, health, e-government, education, and social issues. We are making a difference – one in four Americans went to the library last year to use a computer and the Internet. 90% of libraries offer formal or informal technology assistance to library users, and 35% offer one-on-one technology training by appointment. Yet 1 in 5 Americans still consider themselves non-users of the Internet. There is an ongoing opportunity here and libraries are the perfect solution.

Are you wondering how to extend and improve your library technology training program to help meet this challenge? I recently read an article from Mother Earth News about organic gardening, and every recommendation seemed to remind me of good tech training practices!

  • Grow High-Value Crops
    • Find out what your community values the most, and build your technology training around those needs. Local demographics can help you determine the types of classes you should be offering. If in doubt, ask! Talk to a few community leaders that work with all types of people in your community to see what the top challenges are in your area.
  • Start Early, End Late
    • Holding tech classes right before or after the library opens is a good solution when space, computers or staff are limited.
  • Emphasize What Grows Well for You
    • Find out what skills your staff and volunteers have and then build tech training around those areas of expertise. You might find hidden strengths if you ask!
  • Plant Perennials
    • There are some classes we need to just keep offering every year, until every last person can finally use a mouse and keyboard!
  • Choose High-Yielding Crops and Varieties
    • How can you help the most people? Use volunteers, add links to self-paced tutorials to your website, print out some tip sheets, ask on your evaluation forms what other training is needed.
  • Include Essential Herbs
    • Try to spice up your technology training a bit. This is great for your learners but also fun for tech trainers as well. Adding in some new activities, such as a scavenger hunt or technology bingo game can be a great way to make training "stick" while providing more interest to basic classes.
  • Don’t Grow Too Much of One Thing
    • Offer a variety of classes or change the offerings each month on a rotating basis to keep interest and make sure you are offering a variety of topics.
  • Try Something New Every Year
    • Once a year try out a new topic or method of training. Add a social media topic or partner with a local genealogist, travel agent, or other specialist to provide a subject specific class. See if you can include more hands-on learning opportunities.
  • Interplant Compatible Crops
    • Try offering story time at the same time as a tech class geared towards parents to create a win-win situation for families. Or try paring teens and seniors up to give a try at using multi-generational trainers. Think about planning a series of classes built around multi-media, job hunting, crafting, or other topics.
  • Plant One New Edible Every Week
    • Think about showcasing a free tech tool every week. Whether through a 30 minute session, or even a blurb on your webpage, this can be a fun way to share tech resources.
  • Use Free Fertilizers
  • Save Seeds
  • Weed Early and Often
    • If no one is showing up for a class, or your staff are overwhelmed by questions, brainstorm and find solutions. Learning is a messy process and there are many tweaks you can make to ensure that your resources are being used wisely.
  • Grow Your Own Mulch
    • See if staff or volunteers are interested in becoming trainers. Constantly provide your technology trainers with the support they need, including time to practice and develop their own skills.  Have staff trade responsibilities to avoid burn-out.
  • Use the Right Tools
    • So many tech tools can help us with planning and implementing our technology training! From handling registrations, scheduling volunteers, and instructional design, keep your eyes and ears open to finding the right tech tools for your library.
  • Network for Free Pickings
    • Partnerships are a great way to extend your training offerings! See what other community groups are doing and talk to them about pairing up your programs. Also, some business replace technology more often than libraries. See if they'd consider donating their usable equipment.
  • Trade for What You Don’t Have
    • Maybe you can trade trainers for a day, or if you don't have space or a computer lab, see if you can trade these resources in exchange for staff training. Grants are a form of trading as well, and often small tech grants can make a big difference.
  • Garden Beyond Your Yard
    • Tech Training on the go is a great way to extend your program. Go to senior centers, employment sites, Boys and Girls clubs, government offices, and homeless shelters. There is a lot to be gained through outreach.

Hopefully this gives you some "food for thought," in relation to technology training (and gardening!). With a bit of thoughtful planning, you can make sure you are using your resources to maximize your technology training harvest and truly help meet the demand for technology skills and knowledge. Be sure to share any ideas you have in the comments. 

Growing Your Curriculum and Instructor Base

Stephanie, this was a very inspiring and creative post chock full of great suggestions.  Librarians are doing a phenomenal job providing training to people who very much need it. I am cofacilitating a WebJunction webinar next Tuesday, June 4, 2013 explaining how OASIS Connections provides libraries with a proven curriculum and an established method for increasing training staff through use of volunteers.  To learn more visit http://www.webjunction.org/events/webjunction/Amp_Up_Your_Technology_Training.html   Happy Training! Amy

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