At a time when many libraries are looking for ways to increase the use of technology to save time and money in workplace learning and performance offerings, we need to remember that we haven’t (yet) been replaced by avatars, nor has all learning gone on line, nor is it likely to all go on line. Incorporating technology creatively into our in-person training programs can create stimulating and rewarding experiences for everyone, and help meet our bottom line needs and goals: to better serve our in-house customers (our staff) as well as those who visit our libraries onsite as well as online. And we don’t have to spend lots of money creating training programs from scratch or buying expensive learning modules or tools; there are plenty of options form which to draw. We will be looking at a few of them today to give a boost to our in-person training programs.
Let’s start with a deceptively simple question: what is technology? Is it something semi-state-of-the-art like a Kindle?
Does it include something older like a printing press?
Can the word “technology” be applied to an old Gestetner offset printing press?
Is a book a form of technology?
Or have we reached the point where only things like cell phones, smartphones, iPads, and cloud computing are considered technology?
What happens if we take a broader view and include more familiar things within our definition of “technology?” Does that help us realize that much of what we face and fear isn’t so much what we routinely call “high tech” as it is “something new” that we have to master along with everything else that begs for time we cannot even find? Let’s take a few moments here to get some ideas out for everyone’s consideration via the live chat and live audio portion of our program. And remember that the point of all this is to reach some common ground so we can creatively explore options available to us in using technology in library training.
As we’ve just discussed, the word “technology” can make most of us think about complex tools and systems rather than the people who will be using technology. If we keep our focus on the learners and keep the technology in the background, we have a winning combination for ourselves, those we are assisting, and the libraries and library users we ultimately must serve.
But let’s not overlook one of the first impediments to successful learning. Many of us are dragged, kicking and screaming, into technological innovations. We’d rather voluntarily jump off a cliff than have to learn just one more thing that is supposed to make our lives easier but, in fact, seems almost guaranteed to add to our stress levels.
Technology doesn’t have to be—and shouldn’t be—difficult to learn and use. This low-tech solution, instituted by Denver Public Library a few years ago, reminds us that some things which we no longer think about as “technology” remain in use as completely helpful tools. This one lets library users who are not near a service desk contact staff without having to leave the area in which they are working. They (we) pick up a phone and find a library staff member on the other end of the line within seconds, as I discovered when I visited the library a couple of years ago.
Other tools take a little more effort to learn and implement; These images from Ohio State University Libraries show how Char Booth and her colleagues there decided to try to bring themselves to library users who were working in remote areas of the building by setting up kiosks where users could contact librarians via Skype. As Booth saw it, this was no different than being available via phone, instant messaging (which, of course, is an element of Skype via the chat function), or any other method which served library users’ needs and made their library experience more positive. There is no reason why we can’t be using Skype to deliver just-in-time learning opps, and that’s something we’ll be discussing more during the second of these two sessions (next week). Again, let’s stop here long enough to give this some thought and take some comments in the live chat or via live audio if anyone wants to jump in. And if you have any questions before we jump into the specifics of using PowerPoint, YouTube, Google Docs, and Slideshare, please don’t hesitate to pose them.
“ Death by PowerPoint” has become a running joke among trainers, teachers, and learners. We’re all beyond bored with those slides that cram way too much text onto a slide, and we’re bored to tears by presenters who read those excruciatingly painful slides to us word by word, bullet point by bullet point. Cliff Atkinson has done a lot to pull us out of the whole that poor PowerPoint presentations push us into. The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Who learns through boredom?”
Atkinson takes an amazingly straightforward approach, as we see in this screenshot from the Beyond Bullet Points website. He suggests that we think filmically: create a basic script, then develop a storyboard, then continue the process by matching those images and script—remembering to keep the text on the slide to a minimum, and then, finally, using the slide-sorter function with PowerPoint to see all our slides at a glance and look for continuity and discontinuities.
In this view, we can actually see the presentation you’re viewing in one of its final stages of development. If you look across the first line of thumbnail shots at slide 7, you see the final image that was manipulated to give the sense of movement from slide 2 to slide 6. Also note the use of a consistent background color for much of the presentation but done in a way where it’s not overly predictable. One thing that helps is that there are some screenshots to break up the presentation a bit, and that a consistent use of type creates some continuity between slides with images and slides with screenshots.
One of the big things to remember about using relatively simple technology like PowerPoint presentations is that we’re in charge. We don’t have to blast through a slide show start to finish; it’s OK to stop, to step away from the slides, and to interact with our learners. It’s also—horror of horrors—OK to minimize the presentation—in the sense of getting it off the screen—and incorporating other tech resources into our presentations—like the polls we’ve used today. Think multi-media—but at a comfortable level. Questions about PowerPoint before we look at ways to use it with other tools?
We don’t have to do anything as elaborate as putting together an entire piece of technology. We can start simple. Why not combine our use of PowerPoint with the use of images from the Internet? If we are teaching staff about our libraries during a New Staff Orientation session, why not temporarily shrink the PowerPoint slides and bring up images of our library buildings and departments from our own Internet or Intranet sites? If we are demonstrating the use of smartphones, why not bring up the Wikipedia article on smartphones so our learners walk away with a visual reminder of the great resources they can access after they leave the session we’re providing? And speaking of YouTube…
You don’t have to be a real techie to incorporate YouTube into your learning opportunities. Those who can prepare and post videos on the site for use in training are certainly ahead of the rest of us, but we can draw from what they have prepared and, in many ways, be creative by incorporating appropriate brief videos into our face-to-face presentations. If, for example, we are helping our learners master something important like the technology of making eraser darts, why not bring up a video that someone else has posted for general use? And there certainly are plenty of archived training sessions available out there on YouTube and other sites, including ALA TechSource, for instructors who want to use clips to draw learners together face to face and stimulate group discussions among members of our community of learning.
And let’s not forget the value of humor and levity in general in learning. We all know—or should know—that stress physically shuts down our ability to learn—it’s physiological. We do, therefore, have to take deliberate steps to reduce stress as much as possible. A colleague and I, while helping a group of wonderful learners master the use of smartphones for medical record-keeping purposes, could see how difficult some of the lessons were for the learners, so we took every opportunity possible to celebrate every measurable moment of progress we could anticipate. At one point, we even announced that we had discovered a victory dance to celebrate their achievements—and that’s when we turned to those wonderful Dancing Matt videos on YouTube—the ones showing Matt dancing in beautiful locations all over the world—and invited the learners to do Matt’s wonderfully goofy dance as a learner’s victory dance. Not only did the learners leave with smiles on their faces, but they returned, the next day, wanting to end the follow-up sessions by seeing the victory dance again. Questions or comments about YouTube as a tech training tool?
As we saw with the YouTube examples, we sometimes just need to be a little creative in finding ways to use tech tools in ways far beyond what we normally encounter. Google Docs—primarily used as an online collaborative tool for people geographically separated from each other—could be a very useful tool for learners with access to computers in a learning lab. If learners are broken into teams within the lab, they can create a document that supports whatever is being taught—a spreadsheet, a text document, or a PowerPoint presentation, for example—during the shared in-class time, then access that document from their shared Google Docs account afterward to continue learning together or by themselves. What better way to take the concept of blended learning (onsite and online learning) one step further while contributing to the growth of your community of learners?
As you might be able to see, Google Docs attempts to make the process easy by allowing you to sort through the documents that you have posted for your own private use as well as sorting those documents which you share with others. It really does take us wonderfully into the concept of cloud computing—using offsite servers to free us up from only having access to what we need when we are sitting at our own computer workstation. And it also makes it possible for us to do what we’re discussing today—incorporate tech tools into face-to-face training—as well as what we will be discussing next week—incorporating tech tools into distance learning opportunities. Questions or comments? Thoughts on how you might use this in your own learning environments?
Slideshare—a free site where you can post or access PowerPoint presentations—provides yet another opportunity to think creatively to the benefits of learners. Beside the obvious benefit of loading your presentations and being able to access them while providing training on nearly any topic imaginable, you can refer learners to your presentations in case they want to review them as they absorb what they have learned. And to take this a step further: if you’re helping learners master something like PowerPoint or helping them understand how Slideshare might be a useful tech tool for them, why not have them finish their lesson by either posting a presentation on Slidewhare or finding something on Slideshare that they can use later?
As is the case with Google Docs, SlideShare makes it easy for us to access, use, and share what we created. We can view our own slides at a glance, share them with others, and use effective tagging to make them more available to others. It’s just another way to keep the tools in the background while we concentrate on what our learners need from us. Comments or questions from anyone about how this might work well for you and those you are assisting?
Even though few of us have the resources available in academic library information commons, we can learn a lot by paying attention to what they offer. The Lied Library information commons at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, clearly has matched a commitment to technology with a commitment to providing comfortable, effective learning spaces for its users. If we can find ways to work with what we have to put the technology behind the people, we’re well on our way to using technology effectively in library training programs. Gathering learners into a staff lounge and using a few laptops might make things much more casual than cramming people into formal learning labs—and we don’t even have to make this an either-or situation. Why not use the labs when we need them, and take advantage of other less formal settings whenever we have that option?
Again, we’re not headed toward installing huge learning labs in our often overcrowded main and branch libraries, but we can see that creating small work areas within a larger space can bring learning down to a human level. If we as instructors can create variations on this theme, we further nurture our communities of learners.
Sarah Houghton-Jan, our wonderful Librarian in Black, recently put out a great resource for all of us. Her book provides a list of &quot;essential technology training topics in libraries&quot; and other potential training topics--nearly all of which could just as easily be adapted within a nonprofit or commercial organization looking to develop a cutting-edge workforce (pp. 6-7). Employees in libraries are clearly not the only ones who need to master technology terminology; understand how to effectively use email, web browsers, and online search skills to the benefit of the customers they serve; and be able to avoid ergonomic problems caused by improper set-up of employees' (and customers') work stations. And the writer's list of areas of future growth--cloud computing, surface computing, open source software development among them--are equally applicable and important to workplace learning and performance programs in nearly any professional setting today. The extensive recommended resources listings and bibliography at the end of the book, furthermore, are icing on a well baked cake, leaving readers with plenty of useful resources. Those in search of dessert as well as a substantial main course will find both in Technology Training in Libraries, and we all owe Houghton-Jan and her publisher a round of applause for making the information available in such a concise fashion (103 pages of text, followed by the additional resources already mentioned).
Using Technology To Enhance In-Person Training By Paul Signorelli For ALA Techsource 16 September 2010 (First of Two Sessions)
Contact Information Paul Signorelli & Associates 1032 Irving St., #514 San Francisco, CA 94122 415.681.5224 [email_address] http://paulsignorelli.com
Credits (Images taken from flickr.com unless otherwise noted): Title slide: From Daneel Ariantho’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/daneelariantho/2631276941/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Gestetner Offset Printer: From Doegox’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/doegox/1060145642/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Printing Press: From Gastav’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gastev/360505392/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Book: From Joe King’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeking/3583626772/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Kindle: From Jurvetson’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/2608962510/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Phone: From Esther Gibbons’ photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gibbons/343384475/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Typewriter: From Zen’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/zen/1585255/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Toaster: From PixelPlacebo’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatkueng/2710580537/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Hammer and Nails: From Cayusa’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cayusa/2756149674/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Bicycle: From Iban’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7394371@N06/3420821554/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Circuit Board: From Johnmuk’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jm999uk/182393033/sizes/m/in/photostream/ No Technology: From Sammy0716’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sammy0716/3005591006/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Telephone to Reach a Librarian at Denver Public Library: From Hewink’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hewink/3231035139/ Skype: From Char Booth’s slide show at http://www.slideshare.net/charbooth/moving-communication-forward-internet-voice-and-video-in-libraries Remote Control: From Oskay’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/oskay/297852961/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Television Assembly Instructions: From Kadeeae’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kadeeae/2869708301/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Making Eraser Darts: From YouTube, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilS7PP3D_os Images of Lied Library, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, from Barbara Tierney’s 2007 PowerPoint presentation at http://library.uncc.edu/infocommons/conference/huntsville2007/ University of Arizona Information Commons image at http://www.ilc.arizona.edu/features/infocom.htm