Trouble in Technology Training


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Technology training for adults can be troublesome. This presentation explores 5 tricky scenarios from the tech training classroom, and suggests customer service tactics and training techniques to turn troubles into teachable moments.
Originally presented live at the ALA 2013 conference.

Published in: Education, Business, Technology
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  • Thanks to the Learning Round Table for having me, and to Betha for coordinating. I am the Program Manager at Community Technology Network, a nonprofit working to bridge the digital divide in the San Francisco Bay Area. We currently have 80 volunteers that provide technology training in 30 partner locations including senior centers, workforce centers, and public libraries. I’m also a librarian.(:30)
  • This is an algebraic representation of my presentation. Luckily, I am not in the business of being a mathematician, because it is actually a false representation. But what I intended it to mean is that in the next 10 minutes we will be looking at 5 troublesome tech training scenarios. For each scenario, we will look at four levels of T that take us from trouble to teaching. These are stories of actual training troubles, either that I have experienced or that have been reported to me. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. This presentation is going to move quickly, so hold your questions until the end. I’m happy to connect with all of you after the session.(:30)(Audience poll)
  • You may be wishing that you had a magic wand to wave when troublesome situations arise…(:06)
  • But I don’t have any magic wand solutions for you today. Just a few practical tips that you can add to your bag of tricks when managing your technology learning environment. Whether you are a seasoned technology instructor, a new technology trainer, or even if you have never helped someone use technology, I hope you learn a few new ideas to improve your work. (:25)
  • Every day we hear about how libraries should be providing technology training, from BTOP to Edge Benchmarks. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Technology trainers are facing tough challenges in the technology classroom. If you are a technology trainer, please repeat after me: It ain’t easy! (:20)
  • How do we turn a training trouble into a teachable moment? We must employ customer service tactics and trusted training techniques. Teachable moments aren’t always obvious, and they aren’t always about technology. However, they can turn a bad situation into a not-so-bad situation.(:36)
  • To simplify this: We have four T’s, so it is easy to remember. When you have a trouble, use tactics and techniques so you can teach.(:07)
  • I’ll share 5 tales of training troubles. You may have experienced one or two of these before. If you have ever experienced any training trouble, ever, please raise your hand.(:20)
  • I’ll share 5 customer service tactics to help deal with each situation with respect and empathy. Believe it or not, troubled learners are not trying to ruin your day. (:20)
  • I’ll share 5 tried and true training techniques to help manage your classroom when troubles arise. These techniques bring the focus back to learning, and can help reengage your students.
  • Helping us with our presentation today is Tina. Tina has been a technology trainer in her library for a few years, so she’s learned a lot from experience. She’s also learned a lot from all the amazing trainings and conferences she gets to attend. We’re going to see how Tina would handle these five troublesome scenarios. (:20)
  • Let’s take a look at scenario #1: the Left Behind Learner. Tina is teaching a class on Internet searching. When she advertised the class, she put in the description that basic keyboard and mouse skills were required. Just the same she was not surprised that one of her students, Larry, had never really used a computer before. He knew how the mouse worked, but he couldn’t operate it without assistance. (:22)
  • Tina realized that Larry was motivated to learn, but he didn’t realize the skills he needed for this class. Tina took the opportunity to be a guide for Larry, to teach him how the system works. She explained the different levels of computer classes. She recommended he come to the basic skills class the following week. After explaining, she told him he was welcome to stay and observe if he wanted.(:25)
  • Tina was also sensitive to Larry’s ego. She didn’t want to call him out on the spot for being in the wrong class. Luckily, she had planned a practice activity early on in the class. While everyone else was getting started on the activity, she was able to break away and talk to Larry individually. This allowed her to have a more private conversation, which made Larry feel more comfortable. (:21)
  • In the end, Larry decided to stay through the class and observe, and thanked Tina after. He also learned what his next step should be in order to learn to use a computer. He left feeling positive about learning technology. The training trouble has transformed into a teaching moment. (:16)
  • On to scenario #2: Address Unknown. Tina was teaching the second part, week 2, of a basic email class. Everyone in the class got email addresses during the first week, and they were supposed to bring those email addresses with them to this class to learn how to send and receive email. Sadly, one learner named Lucille forgot her email address AND her password, AND she forgot to bring the handout from the last week’s class where she had jotted it down as a note. (:25)
  • Tina was not surprised by this. Tina knew from past experience that no matter what you ask people to bring to a class, at least one person will always forget it. When Lucille came to Tina at the beginning of class and said “I forgot my email address,” Tina did not act shocked or flustered. She simply told Lucille “It’s okay, we all forget things sometimes. Don’t worry – I have a solution!”…(:28)
  • Which she did, because Tina is always prepared with a backup plan. At some point, Tina decided to create several practice email accounts that could be used in her classes. The account names and passwords were kept in a file with the class materials, so they were always at the ready. Tina also gave Lucille a few tips to safely remember her email address and password.(:21)
  • In the end, Lucille got to participate in the class and learn how to use the email program, even though it was on a different account. She also collected a few classmates email addresses so she could email them and practice at a later time. Tina followed up with Lucille later, and she had found her email address and was using it to send chain emails to all of her new friends.(:20)
  • Scenario #3. The Attention Grabber. Tina teaches an introductory class on Facebook. It is a challenging class to teach, because there is sooo much to cover. But she likes it because her students often get really excited about connecting with their families and seeing photos of grandchildren, or kittens. However, her most recent Facebook class did not go so smoothly. A man named Leonard was in her class, and Leonard already knew a few things about Facebook. He had a Facebook account, and had used it intermittently. This made him feel like an expert. He also heard a lot about how Facebook isn’t safe, and you don’t have any privacy, and a whole lot of other things that made him really worried about using it. So when Tina started to teach about how Facebook was a great way to stay connected to people online, Leonard interjected: “BUT what about privacy? Aren’t you concerned about privacy?” Throughout most of the class, Leonard continued to interrupt, ask off topic questions, and was always the first to speak up, drowning out his classmates.(:57) 
  • As frustrated as Tina was, she knew that Leonard was not trying to ruin her class. He wanted to share what he knew, and he had valid concerns. Every time Leonard spoke up, Tina thanked him for his comments. She tried to answer his questions briefly, or let him know that the topic would be addressed later in class. (:18)
  • Tina also worked hard to redirect Leonard’s energy for the positive. He came to the class, he was interested in learning. He was just spending his energy in an unproductive way. She enlisted Leonard as an assistant to help the people near him during practice exercises, and she made sure to engage others in the discussion. She talked about the importance of everyone being able to have a voice in the class. She incorporated breaks for activities so she could address Leonard’s more advanced questions individually. (:25)
  • By the end of class, Leonard was exploring his own Facebook account, and was helping the people around him with the knowledge he already possessed. He also began to ask questions that were more focused on the class topic, because he knew he could ask Tina his other questions directly. This was a very troublesome situation, but Tina’s tactics and techniques turned it into a teachable moment.(:19)
  • Scenario #4: The chatterbox. Or should I say, the chatterboxes. Tina has a two regular students that come to all of her classes, Leslie and Lloyd. They always learn new things, but they also like the social experience. To them, computer class is a time to catch up on local gossip while ALSO learning a few new things. Tina admires their ability to multitask, but sometimes their chatter gets in the way of everyone else’s learning. (:25)
  • Tina likes to “Just Say Yes” whenever possible. She understands that people have different motivations for coming to class. She finds a way to be flexible and allow Leslie and Lloyd to get what they want out of the class. After all, they are repeat customers! She focuses on what she can say YES to, rather than what to say NO to.(:20)
  • Tina sets expectations up front for the class. She builds time into the class where chatter is a part of the activity. She lets everyone in class know that during the time when she is demonstrating, she would like if everyone paid close attention. (:13)
  • Over time, Leslie and Lloyd have learned the boundaries for class participation. They know that there are times in class when they need to pay attention. They also know that during practice activities, they can chit chat away as they work. They even started coming to class early to get seats next to each other, and to catch up on gossip before class starts. (:17)
  • Last one, scenario #5. Possibly the most dreaded scenario of them all. Blame it on the technology. There is possibly nothing more frustrating than having your technology break right before (or during) a technology class. CLICK. Tina is not immune to this type of technology training trouble. Take, for instance, the time when the library’s Internet went down 15 minutes before her Internet basics class. That’s right. Completely down. No Internet. Did Tina panic? No, she did not.
  • Tina took a deep breath, knowing that these things happen. She saw the bigger picture, that sometimes things, like technology, don’t work out as planned. When her students arrived, she smiled at them and explained the situation in plain terms. The Internet was not working. It would be fixed soon, but they were changing their plans for the class today. She made sure not to bad mouth the technology, knowing that a negative message would discourage these new computer users.
  • Tina quickly pulled together a backup plan, improvising on her original. Part of her class was discussing how the Internet worked and what could be done on the Internet. She kept that part of the class in tact. She grabbed a few books from the stacks – yes, paper books. The books she grabbed were about Internet Browser programs. She had her students look through these books full of color images to get an idea of what the browser programs looked like. She sent them on an information scavenger hunt using the index to learn about things like links, address bars, and back buttons. Then she gave everyone an assignment to come back to the library the next day to try some of these things on one of the library computers.
  • Thanks to Tina’s quick thinking and humble attitude, her students learned that it is not the end of the world when the Internet goes down, and they still had a chance to learn and discuss how to use the Internet. Tina saw many people from the class come into the library to test drive the Internet, and they eventually came back for other classes as well.
  • So that is the end of our tour of 5 troubles in technology training. Let’s go over a quick recap. We saw Larry the left behind learner, Lucille whose address was unknown, Leonard the attention grabber, Leslie and Lloyd the chatterboxes, and Blame the Internet for going down.
  • Tina used her customer service skills to be a guide, anticipate needs, be thankful, say yes, and be humble and honest.
  • Tina also used her skills as a trainer to break away from the class, be prepared for the unexpected, redirect and refocus the energy of the class, set expectations and boundaries, and improvise at the last minute.
  • Combine these troubles, tactics, and techniques, and we end up with…
  • 5 teachable moments. Each situation will be unique, but if you keep these ideas in mind…
  • It can help create happy trainers and happy learners!
  • Image credits:
  • Trouble in Technology Training

    1. 1. Trouble in Technology Training Tactics, Techniques & Teachable Moments Crystal Schimpf, Program Manager Community Technology Network @crystalschimpf
    4. 4. TRAINING TROUBLES ▰ Left Behind Learner ▰ Address Unknown ▰ Attention Grabber ▰ Chatterbox ▰ Blame it on the Tech
    5. 5. SERVICE TACTICS ▰ Be a guide ▰ Anticipate needs ▰ Give thanks ▰ Just say YES ▰ Be honest
    6. 6. TRAINING TECHNIQUES ▰ Break away ▰ Be prepared ▰ Redirect & refocus ▰ Set expectations ▰ Improvise
    7. 7. Meet Tina the Technology Trainer
    9. 9. BE A GUIDE ▰ Teach the system ▰ Explain the situation ▰ Give a referral ▰ Let them choose
    10. 10. BREAK AWAY ▰ Activity time ▰ Individual consultation ▰ Private conversation
    13. 13. ANTICIPATE NEEDS ▰ Don’t be surprised ▰ Have empathy
    14. 14. BE PREPARED ▰ Have a backup plan ▰ Focus on a solution ▰ Create practice accounts ▰ Give tips to help remember
    17. 17. GIVE THANKS ▰ Appreciate input ▰ Value questions ▰ See the human element
    18. 18. REDIRECT & REFOCUS ▰ Harness energy ▰ Ask for their help ▰ Engage others ▰ Take an activity break
    20. 20. CHATTERBOX
    21. 21. JUST SAY YES ▰ Recognize motivations ▰ Be flexible
    22. 22. SET EXPECTATIONS ▰ Explain the agenda ▰ Allow time for chatter ▰ Set boundaries
    24. 24. BLAME THE TECH
    25. 25. BE HONEST ▰ Apologize ▰ Explain the situation ▰ Don’t be negative
    26. 26. IMPROVISE ▰ Have a backup plan ▰ Be creative ▰ Engage other learning activities
    29. 29. 5 SERVICE TACTICS
    32. 32. Contact me: @crystalschimpf