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"Librarians who feel lost in the technical revolution will find this book an essential guide to help familiarize themselves with basic computer usage and terms.
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This book is also dual use. If you are someone with no computer experience, and have tech anxiety, this book would be a great primer though if you fall in that category I doubt you would be skimming a review found on an online social network. On a personal note: My switch to Linux, a gateway to the world of open source, was a positive transformational experience.

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Aug 23, Araminta Matthews rated it liked it Shelves: This book was a practical but highly-dated guide for teaching basic computer, web, and information literacy. At the same time, there was very little pragmatic execution offered in this book and the narrative style was distractingly anecdotal. I was really hoping for evidence-based practices for teaching digital literacy. I think also I was more interested in seeing teaching that digital literacy to extremely bright and capable adults like professors who are brilliant in their content areas but This book was a practical but highly-dated guide for teaching basic computer, web, and information literacy.

I think also I was more interested in seeing teaching that digital literacy to extremely bright and capable adults like professors who are brilliant in their content areas but perhaps have missed the broader aspects of web-utility with particular regard to how to use it for professional development, instruction, communities or practice, and so on.

A great resource for librarians and adult educators, but not so great for the instructional designer looking for clear pathways to scaffolding technical-literacy with instructors who are just dabbling with complex digital notions. Jun 21, Jeremy Preacher rated it really liked it Shelves: Man, it's been years since I did any sort of technical support, and reading a clear, accessible, well-written guide to helping technical newbies get going was a blast from the past, except my past didn't contain anything nearly so useful.

I am not a librarian, so while those parts were interesting from a curious end-user perspective, they did go over my head a bit, but the actual technical parts were totally interesting and well-laid-out. This would be an excellent book for anyone who currently Man, it's been years since I did any sort of technical support, and reading a clear, accessible, well-written guide to helping technical newbies get going was a blast from the past, except my past didn't contain anything nearly so useful.

This would be an excellent book for anyone who currently works in tech support serving home users - there are lots of good suggestions not just for specific tools and resources, but for approaches to getting them through the sticky bits of computer use. Feb 07, Laura rated it liked it. As many reviewers have pointed out, this book is a very basic guide to library technology and to teaching patrons about technology. As a fairly new librarian, I appreciated the overview of the main issues as outlined in the first few chapters.

I will admit to skimming through the chapters on "what is the Internet? Dec 14, Liz rated it it was ok Shelves: This was really just a how-to guide for public libraries trying to sort out their library. Not really good information for the new librarian, but possibly good for those who are stuck in a rut or behind in technology. I heard her talk at UNC, and was hoping the book would expand more on her talk on the actual digital divide, not just be a simple manual that to me just seemed common sense.

I enjoyed the spunky frank deleivery and the useful insights and tips. The book approached teaching computer skills in a very positive encouraging manner. Extra webliography and teaching resources were noted on the authors website - http: Mar 15, Julie rated it it was amazing Shelves: Without a Net provides library staff with a clearer understanding of what the digital divide is, who is affected by it, and what we can do to help patrons successfully cross the digital divide.

The webliography and bibliography provide readers with a wealth of additional resources to consult. Jan 03, Chris Schoenherr rated it liked it. Much like the other reviewers, I think this book is an excellent choice for library paraprofessionals, and some of the less tech savvy librarians out there. Jun 04, Jesus rated it really liked it Shelves: Dec 26, Grace P.

A good book for any librarian about to teach technology classes for the first time. She is a good writer. Jan 25, AJ rated it really liked it. Helpful look at the digital divide from a library perspective and good tips on helping patrons bridge that divide. Still relevant even though the edition I read was published in Oct 09, Sarah rated it liked it. Great delivery on the pertinent topic from a recognizable name in the field.

Ellen rated it it was amazing May 14, Liz West rated it it was amazing Aug 07, Caleb rated it really liked it Jun 06, Emily rated it liked it Feb 22, Ame rated it it was amazing Jul 22, Audra Deemer rated it it was amazing Aug 27, Karen Pickard-Four rated it liked it Apr 22, Ed rated it it was amazing Dec 06, Samantha rated it really liked it Sep 28, Jenergy rated it really liked it Mar 02, Michelle rated it liked it Mar 03, There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Books by Jessamyn C.

Trivia About Without a Net: Keep in mind that for people with very little hands-on experience with technology, much of what they may know about it comes from news articles more on that in the next section of this chapter and advertising. Do you connect to the internet at all, or only use dial-up? If so, you are at a very low risk for virus threats. Do you use a Mac? If so, you are at a very low risk from virus threats and mostly need to employ good computer hygiene like not opening email attachments from strangers.

I try to whittle it down to its essential parts, but the basic upshot is this sort of brinksmanship situation: Some behavior leaves one more open to virus problems than others. And there are always people available to take your money to try to clear the viruses off of your computer.

Again, we are not turning the reference desk into a computer repair center. More of it is leading The Bigger Picture—Who Makes the Tools We Use 37 by example with public access computers running competent and invisible anti-virus software, and showing that it is possible to use a computer, access the internet, and interact with other people online without falling prey to various hazards.

There are many web tools that are free to use, but not FOSS-types of tools. So, there is a small but growing group of advocates who recommend many FOSS solutions for libraries. This has become even more pronounced lately as two large FOSS ILS products are being implemented in many large and small library systems worldwide. And much of this is happening without a concerted marketing effort by FOSS companies.

In fact, one of the constant complaints about FOSS is the lack of documentation for all but the most polished software. However, for many people who do not enjoy tinkering and DO enjoy tech support, FOSS is still not quite there as a genuine option. IT departments sometimes refuse to install and maintain it. Anyone who moves within FOSS circles has met a few of these people. There are still a vanishingly small set of libraries who are using primarily FOSS tools for their public access computers. I am hoping to see more libraries attempting this sort of setup moving forward.

Software is sometimes hard to use by design. It is easier to work with vendors if you understand what motivates them and what they are trying to do. The Media, the Decision Makers, and How They Interact How many times have you been reading a newspaper or listening to the radio and you hear someone talk about the library? And the stories you read about libraries in the media often take fairly predictable turns.

At a national level, a lot of library stories seem to be the result of press releases or announcements by library advocacy groups. Celebrating the freedom to read.


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National Library Card Week. Libraries are still important even in economic slowdowns. Hey, librarians can even use computers now! Both types of media are ubiquitous enough that they can reach any American who can read. The same can not be considered true for online media despite how ubiquitous it may seem to us. When I was working at a large public library in Vermont, the best outreach tools we had outside of direct mailings were putting something in the newspaper and putting something in the window of a storefront downtown, which we did for Library Card Sign-Up Month.

Another incredibly effective outreach tool was the local cable access channel. I did a presentation where I took a PowerPoint talk about our genealogy database along with a bunch of screenshots and narrated alongside them, explaining how to do census research 40 Without a Net using Heritage Quest. It was totally low tech, but it got people interested in the idea in a safe and familiar environment.

For better or worse, many people who are used to older media also place a large amount of faith in this media and the things they read or hear there. This is not always true, of course. And reading about media trends such as Twitter or even the less-new Facebook provides such a small window into how the technology works that people with little tech knowledge often wind up more confused than enlightened. And older generations especially are used to making lifestyle decisions in part based on what they see and read in the paper, for better or worse.

That said, whenever there is a news story in the paper, we can guarantee that many people will read about it and know about it, which is good for business. And many reporters are end users, even tech reporters. They are not IT people. They are not programmers. They are not web designers. Many of these things are tough to explain in few words without hyperlinks nowadays.

I was there to hear what people had to say about libraries, and to talk about libraries to people who would listen. In fact only two speakers mentioned them: Many more people started reading my blog. People asked my opinion about topics even though I was mostly just a librarian blogger who decided to go to the DNC because it was in my neighborhood.

I found that early in my blogging career, I heard this a lot: The cost of having a blog is small, compared to traditional media, and the advantages can be huge. I am sure that a lot of my professional library accomplishments—being on ALA Council, getting to be the webmaster of the Vermont Library Association website, being chosen to blog at the DNC—were a result of my having a blog.

Blogs are more commonplace now. People can be professional bloggers as a job, and there are blogging media networks such at 42 Without a Net Gawker, Gothamist, and the amusingly named Cheezburger Network. They offer some sort of participation that is a little more rich than letters to the editor, usually a comments section or sometimes a forum.

They produce content round-the-clock. Bloggers may or may not be reporters, either in their own estimation or in the eyes of the law. There was a very popular post6 I made that discussed whether then-VP candidate Sarah Palin had actually tried to ban books from her local library when she was the mayor of Wasila, Alaska. I linked to a Time magazine article.

Of course, neither I nor anyone else knew the provenance of the list. The upshot, whether I believed it or not, was that his roommate had posted the list as some sort of prank and no such list actually existed. The Bigger Picture—Who Makes the Tools We Use 43 And then, like any political dispute, people started getting angry with each other and angry with me for not handling the issue in what they deemed the correct way; usually what was suggested was taking the post down.

And those debating this issue were a range of tech-literate and not-so-literate people who were often talking past each other. I got a lot of angry email. The post still remains on my site, however. Sarah Palin did not get elected for other reasons. At the core of this debate, I felt, was the role of bloggers, people who can edit their posts at will and delete or edit comments. Each role comes with differing expectations of polish, professionalism, and formality.

This can be simultaneously an exercise in navel gazing, and also in giving us a view of our own professional online presence. Walt Crawford has written two books 11 about the landscape of blogging librarians, and how it has changed over time, both of which are well worth reading. I see a lot of librarians on 44 Without a Net Facebook and Twitter and even on Foursquare, and to me it always feels like a symbiotic meshing of a traditional profession with new technologies in order to continue to provide access to information and resources.

This group of library bloggers is also around and available and discussing library issues online through community sites such as FriendFeed, LISNews, and Unshelved Answers, as well as being a presence on other social sites and in local blogs. This whole idea of the online hive mind is commonplace in some workplaces and totally mysterious in others.

Politics is a profession of persuasion and deal-brokering, and most people who are in politics at a national level are partly there because they work well or can work well in the spotlight. They are there because they have social skills in addition to legal or economic skills. We ignore this avenue at our peril. Politicians read the same newspapers as you and I, and are not necessarily any more tech-savvy than any of us.

Keeping our politicians updated in terms of what they can do about our needs is critical to the larger issue of the digital landscape in our country and our place within it. We could use more librarians in the legislature generally. So, from the inside we need to not only be reasonable ourselves but call for reason in a larger sense, and remember that whatever our personal feelings about technology are, we serve all the users, both the technophilic and the technophobic. Novice computer users can be cynical or naive. In fact, I try to never say that something is easy, preferring to say that something is straightforward, or perhaps is uncomplicated.

The combination of knowing your audience and setting their expectations, along with using compassionate and considerate language allows you to have the most useful impact assisting people in setting their own pace with technology. And for the people who approach technology with a bit of a sneer or approach technology within our profession as if we were blindly following trends, I generally just smile and encourage people to get used to it.

Synthesis—How It All Works Together Unlike most other national American institutions, there is no centralized coordination among libraries. This is good news for vendors and bad news for all but the largest libraries. There are certainly generalizations you can make about what a library offers, but even the laws about what you have to provide in order to even be a public library vary by state.

While we often hear the refrain of people missing the old days of quiet libraries and no computers, these days are not so distant for many rural libraries. Print offerings are all out there on the shelves for everyone to see, but how do we demonstrate all of our technology offerings? In some ways, this is great as we have a timeless institution that for many people has simply always been there. Please share these ideas freely. This page intentionally left blank 3 Planning—Strategies, Techniques, and Tools Librarians should understand that what they do is create space, cognitive space in the environment.

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Without a net : librarians bridging the digital divide

It can look like a public library, a web site. Librarians need to make sure that they provide a rich space, where human beings can gather, interact, and become more than themselves. If librarians can do that, and do it well, they will be a part of the future. There is a small set of tools that I consider indispensable for getting started with technology that technology users, present and future, should become familiar with. The goal here is learning, not mastery and possibly not even speedy competency, but being further along the path than before. Outside of the library, in my region, a lot of the funding for stuff like this comes from programs like AmeriCorps or other national service-type programs or job readiness programs.

These programs do a great job working with populations affected by poverty and facing great challenges. Believing that novice users can turn into tech educators over a few months may be unrealistic. This is especially true when working with people on the other side of the digital divide. Put another way, this is a problem that does not scale. That is, many believe that if there were a way to make a technology instruction website that was somehow self-directed, people could just teach themselves how to use a computer, and then pass on the URL and others would learn. I hope that the extensive information presented and explicated here helps to bridge some of this knowledge gap for potential educators and get this information to the people who really need it.

Library Policies The library has a mission to offer access to information. Libraries need to be clear how providing access to the internet serves the library mission. Front line staff then can pass this message on to patrons. So, the easiest way to start this process right is to have policies. If you have policies, now is the time to examine them. If you do not have policies, consider this an incentive to get them. Let me restate, because this part is important: The fact that other people do this does not make it okay.

In most cases, you have policies so that patrons and library management and library staff will have a shared set of expectations about how the library technology is supposed to be managed and used. In most cases your library is not starting from scratch. You have established patterns of technology use and you may have policies in place for the systems that you have.

Note that not all of these policies are patron-facing. For a small library some of these policies may be grouped together. No matter what your library does, these policies should be part of any technology class, even if just given out as handouts. Remember that your policy is not an end user license agreement EULA and it is not really supposed to substitute for a legal contract, so keep the language understandable and the tonefriendly.

Also, keep track of the places your policy is located, so that if you have a printed internet use policy and a policy listed on your website, both of them are updated when changes are made. Planning—Strategies, Techniques, and Tools 55 Computer Use Policy Many libraries have this policy and the internet use policy wrapped together since nearly all libraries offer computers with internet access.

A basic computer use policy usually explains what the PCs are available for, how patrons need to save their work On to portable media? Does the library provide it? Can people bring in their coffee? The largest concern for noninternet PCs appears to be space. Some libraries offer laptop loaning programs in lieu of workstation-type PCs. Even in the most smoothly running technology systems, policies can use some adjustment and possibly mid-course corrections, so be sure whatever your policies are, they are revisited on a regular basis, even if this happens infrequently.

A good policy contains a few sections that can be elaborated on as necessary for the library. Elaboration on the policy use cases, interpretations, specifics, etc. Other related policies as appropriate Wireless Policy If your library offers wireless to the public, there is a good chance that you already have a wireless policy. Is this policy made available to patrons before they log on to your wireless? This sort of thing can be set up using freely available software and is worth building in to any library system that offers free wireless. Here are some questions your library should consider with your wireless policy: Social Software Policy If the library is active in social networking sites, it may be making contacts and connections with patrons and non-patrons via other websites not owned by or controlled by the library.

Here are a few questions you can ask or answer: Privacy Policy Your library probably already has a privacy policy that concerns the sharing of patron information, reading records and other similar information. As people interact with the library digitally, they leave a digital trail that should be paid attention to and considered when thinking about patron privacy. A privacy audit is a systematic review of the data-collection practices of an organization to determine if the practices are consistent with the privacy policies of the organization.

It helps to ascertain what the life-cycle of patron data should be, i. A privacy audit does not mandate the disposal of records. It is an opportunity for librarians to discuss the role of data in the library. Thinking about functions like email or chat reference, or patron interactions at outreach activities, or computer sign-up lists and what happens to the patron data after it has served its purpose are worthwhile exercises for a library.

Staff Internet Use Policy Many libraries that have internet use policies for patrons do not have a similar policy for staff. Policy on Technology Donations In brief, donated technology is almost always more trouble than it is worth. The library should have a policy in place for what donations they will accept and under what terms.

My rule of thumb at the libraries that I work for is more or less like this: Make sure patrons erase them before donating them to the library. Lastly, if your library has donated technology sitting in a storeroom somewhere, get rid of it. Take it to an approved disposal center or donate it to a local computer rehab place. My best advice is to clean house. Sometimes it can be very dependent on just a few people in the community, particularly the librarian, setting the tone. Because if the library is an island of tech knowledge in a sea of tech ignorance, it needs to develop services and programs that position itself appropriately.

Is your library leading the community in tech adoption and interaction, or following the path the community has already set? Your library may be in a position where it needs to keep up with the tech desires of its community. I call these libraries the Tech Followers; they are providing technological services primarily in response to patron demand.

This can sometimes mean letting the patrons choose what services are implemented. Frequently, we see this in terms of low-level policy issues as well as larger programming decisions. They often decide to offer tech services based on a few different things: We see this a lot at my location in Vermont. We have databases available at a state level through the Vermont Online Library program and many libraries have signed up for the Listen Up! Vermont program , which provides digital audiobooks to libraries via OverDrive. Community Analysis A part of any real outreach program is doing a community analysis.

This is somewhat different than just interacting with the patrons you already have, because often there are people in the community who are not coming to the library for whatever reason; effective outreach programs will often be directed towards engaging and attracting them. In a best-case scenario, your library can begin collection 62 Without a Net development in the languages spoken by the community, and hey, you have a bunch of new patrons! Outreach is a little weird because it often focuses on people who we perceive as needing library services and not necessarily the people who just feel that they have no use for the library.

However, if most of your community already has computers and broadband at home, you may need to position yourself differently. Widening the scope of the data to a level where this information might be collected, i. This is different from a community analysis, but can net useful data. Usability testing and other more qualitative questions will be covered later in the chapter. Why did you come to use a library computer today? Were you able to complete the task you came here to do?

Why or why not? Which software programs do you use at the library? Are there other programs you feel we should offer? The Library as Tech Follower In this scenario, the library is in a tech savvy community overall. This does not mean that you are not working with people affected by the digital divide, but it means that they may be in more of a minority position relative to their community than in a tech leading community.

People are more likely to have the option of broadband at home, whether or not they decide to avail themselves of it. She works with people who have little or no tech knowledge and yet they are living in places where they could, if they chose and could afford it have computers and broadband at home. Where I live, people could have computers at home, but broadband is literally not an option, or the only option is costly satellite.

In the areas where broadband is available, it is often low-cost because that seems to be the only way that broadband ISPs can coax users into 64 Without a Net adopting it. People in these communities often have multiple ways of accessing the internet for free or for a low cost. This varies from place to place. It also makes sense to have people from your community, people who are tech savvy, serve as some sort of an advisory group formal or informal to help the library determine what they should offer and support technologically.

The needs of individual communities vary greatly; and knowing that the community may be technologically advanced still does not necessarily open a clear path of best practices. Additionally, a tech-savvy patron base may mean a lot of donated labor and materials for various tech projects. If you have patrons who are upgrading their technology frequently, their castoffs may be better than your stock equipment. Library as Tech Leader In many locations, especially rural and remote locations, the library is the sole public provider of internet access and may be the only place that many people from the community ever go online.

A lot rests on what the patrons perceive as attitude.

Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide by Jessamyn C. West

Internet access at libraries is a huge deal. According to the report Opportunity for All: This represents nearly half of all public library visits. The most revealing statistic in all of this is that three-quarters of these people also had internet access elsewhere. This survey is interesting, but also needs to be properly contextualized. It contains the result of a phone survey of library users and non-users, a web based survey of only library users, and case studies at four U. Likewise, the most recent as of this writing IMLS Public Library Survey is a little out of date data from , published in mid , but gives us a good idea of what libraries actually have.

The state with the highest number of public access computers per capita is Vermont with 7. Amusingly, Vermont is also nearly at the bottom of the list of average number of computers per building with 4. The thing to keep an eye on is the averages. The average number of PACs per building in the U. The average number of PACs per 5, population is 3. How does your library compare to this or to other libraries in your state? The average number of serials subscriptions in libraries with populations of over one million in their legal service area is, however, ALA is the best go-to reference for this sort of information, even though their advocacy angle is obvious, and expected.

In terms of more normative data about what people are going to their libraries for and what they are getting, here are some more interesting statistics from that report: This number shifts slightly and confusingly when people are using library computers in order to access e-government services. So, while wireless internet offerings are fairly widespread at this point, the same is not true for tech instruction.

Is this an unmet need in your community? There all are welcome and access is open and free. The most important thing on this list I think is clout. People look to us as experts, rightly or wrongly, about the things within our walls. So the things we tell people about technology are taken seriously and given attention.

If people want my personal opinion, and they often do, they will ask for it. Otherwise, I need to put my librarian hat on and try to give them information and access to resources that will solve their problems, not recruit another person for my sick-of-popups army. Our Toolbox This section is a non-tech list of some of the resources we have that may be more powerful than we think when assisting tech novices. Bibliographies and Booklists A good booklist or bibliography can serve a useful function.

Similar to a great book display, it can highlight parts of the collection that you feel could use some more attention. For every tech class that I teach, I have a short bookmark-sized booklist to hand out to people on their way out. This shows two things: That the library is a go-to place for tech information in multiple formats. The reason this is true is because as technology becomes more ubiquitous and the cost for delivering content in print expands, many content providers turn to the web for lower-cost publishing. This, in turn, means fewer print resources available for Planning for Pedagogy 71 Page ten of the Mousercise tutorial.

The tutorial is a very simple series of steps each of which involves clicking somewhere on the page which reveals the next page. Students can usually proceed through it in a self-directed fashion and at the end there are some skill-building games for further practice. If you have a ready set of handouts that give them basic information, they may be able to, in conjunction with that, tell you what they most need to learn.

You can add to or subtract from this list based on the offerings in your classes or what you have available in your library, but the general idea is using print resources in order to gauge a good starting point for introducing a novice user to technology resources. That is, most people realize that a computer is a piece of technology, but what about an iPod? I try to get this across in other ways as well. Patrons have many competencies and having competency with a computer is just one other skill to learn. Setting Standards Although this is discussed in more detail in the Maintenance and Ergonomics section, it bears noting here that one of the things that we provide for novice technology users is an idea of how computers can work, that may be different from their experiences with computers elsewhere.

Many people come to the library after their experiences at work or school or home have frustrated them, and made them skeptical about technology. Coming to the library where they can use a computer free of viruses and pop-ups and visual clutter They can do this at your library, right? People do this sort of thing all the time.

Let me show you how to do this. We must be mindful of our mission, our limitations, and the community context in which we operate. Public computing offerings have typically had more demand than supply. Not a bad problem to have, but it means that we need to try to be equitable about providing access to this scarce resource. Having sensible policies that you can fairly enforce is a good start and can lead to less trouble down the line when disputes enter the picture. This involves, and yes this is a recurring theme, setting standards of what you think a library computer should be able to do, and letting people know this.

This may also involve accepting feedback that your ideas are incorrect, outdated or confusing, and working this feedback into a new set of standards. So think of this as a start to a conversation. I always liked how my health insurance company gave me not just a list of responsibilities when I became a customer, but also a set of rights. Think of these policies both in terms of responsibilities—how you require technology users to act and what your expectations are—but also rights—what offerings you expect to have and what assistance you will provide.

One library I worked at had minute time limits at the computers for patrons, and these were pretty strictly enforced because we were a busy library. This was in keeping with our other library goals of providing access to resources and it seemed to be an appreciated service. A Cautionary Tale I once worked at a library that had policies about email access on public access computers. They had few computers and high demand, and wanted to make sure people were using the computers for libraryrelated tasks, mostly. So we had about twelve public access computers.

Some were catalog-only, some were patron-only i. Slightly complicated policies, but manageable. However, the library board had decided, before I began working there, that they wanted to make email access at the library a perk for card-holding patrons. The idea was that people would see email access as valuable enough so they would pay a fee to obtain a card, thus raising money for the library.

So, the patron PCs had email access. The non-patron PCs were divided into two categories: We did away with the system over the next two years. Additionally, it meant that staff had to be on the lookout for people accessing webmail on the non-patron PCs and give the webmail URL to the systems librarian. A webmail address that might work for a patron one week would be blocked the next week. For board members or staff who are not tech savvy themselves, this whole path is fraught with pitfalls.

And the staff had to make the best of a bad situation and explain this system to patrons. So, think of policies as one way to not just regulate technology use, but also to publicize it. Some things we need to offer to all patrons while some more specialized offerings make sense to provide in a classroom setting. Here are some suggestions and tips for trying to make the classroom a place where students can have a good user experience: Have example documents for students to work on. Novice users are often slow typists.

If I need to teach people to format a document, waiting for them to type it is going to use up valuable class time. Have a sample document ready I often take something from the Internet Archive that is freely available to use, Gift of the Magi for instance. Have this document already on the hard drive for them to open, edit, and save. Have a plan for saving work. Each option has pluses and minuses. Be prepared to adjust. Make sure you have some alternative plans in case students are generally faster or slower than you were anticipating.

Planning for Pedagogy 79 4. Weekly classes can be tough because adult students have lives and forget a lot in-between classes. Each class that I teach starts with a quick vocabulary lesson, which is also a good time to check how much from the last class sunk in. MS Word and Excel have multiple ways of doing the same, or similar, things.

Unlike your automobile or other physical machine where only one thing turns on the headlights, there are a lot of ways to do each thing with these programs. Sometimes people have taken classes before that stressed one type of action over another. So people learned the menus, but not the key commands. I usually talk about the options and then use one and stick to one. And know your audience. The Word document is a lot of text that gives the students problems to solve: This is what you know.

So we learn how to solve problems as we go. Everything is gone, replaced by a single lower-case k! Here is a list from one of my handouts about problems we can solve: My document was replaced with the letter k! Why is there all this white space in my document? Why is it changing the words that I type? Why is it making my words capitalized? I typed a whole sentence with caps lock on!

The picture I put in my document is too big! Structure and Pacing The big difference between teaching adults and teaching younger people in a school-like setting is that adults usually have a choice, they can be somewhere else. I do try to explain what is different between the computers at the school and the computers they might have at home. People who use a modem to access the internet might be confused when they are looking at clip art and suddenly their computer makes a phone call!

The big challenge is having tasks that are interesting enough for adults and yet simple enough for people with very low computer literacy. Otherwise, the math part of the spreadsheet program would overwhelm the other very important functions and people would tune out. Libraries need to model sensible approaches to technology and ownership of library technology environments and issues overall.

The classes were well-attended and we got good feedback on them. I would see some students taking this same class over and over again. At one point I asked one of the students, an older woman who was frequently in using the library computers, why she was a repeat student. When my outreach contract was over at the library, the class offerings declined in frequency until they were giving one computer class a month. With technology classes particularly, the most important part is students being able to ask questions and learning skills that they can actually apply in the library environment.

Used the local school computer labs when we have a one-off class or set of classes. Often the schools will make their classrooms freely available once school gets out. Planning for Pedagogy 83 2. Used the few public computers when the library is closed. Taught without a computer. For novice users, you can often dispense with the computer altogether. Sending people home with handouts that they feel that they actually understand can be better than memories of interacting on-screen that are less clear. Some people do not enjoy learning technology topics on the actual technology itself.

So, have these books nearby where you are doing the instruction, optimally available for checkout. Have other library promotional materials available in case people coming to your technology classes are not regular library users. The big deal with classes of novices is that you have to teach towards the middle, which is often unsatisfactory for many people.

Again, set expectations appropriately and try to leave time after class so that students who are truly struggling can get some advice after class. This is really no different than most of our public interactions. The Technology Itself We also send out a meta-message with our technological setups and approaches. How we create our technology learning environments and how we interact with the machines ourselves sends out signals and cues about the technology environment.

Often computer systems are set up in the space available, with the materials that are available, without much thought being given to whether that set-up is the optimal one for how the computers are supposed to be used. Here are some things to think about when making choices about the technological context that is created at the library. Think about them when setting up systems for novice users, as well as communicating to other people who are interacting with those systems.

And students should be instructed in how to pick the mouse up and reposition it on the desktop or tabletop in order to continue the movement of the mouse in the direction it was going. Having a footrest for shorter patrons is a great idea, though certainly not required. Keyboards should be somewhere where they stay stable. Screens and Privacy Different libraries have different approaches to the privacy screen idea, where a patron can see their computer screen well but others cannot.

Some libraries employ privacy screens so that you have to get right up behind a patron to help them with a computer issue. Others are so dim that it makes the entire browsing experience sub-optimal. That said, if public access computers are in a public place, sometimes employing privacy screens is a better Planning for Pedagogy 87 solution than having librarians or patrons constantly having to be looking at things they might prefer not to look at.

If you do employ privacy screens, make sure they are removable. Be sure that clean-up crews understand special considerations for cleaning privacy screens and replace them if they become uncleanable. Have some sort of regular clean and tidy routine for the PC areas which includes: Forward-thinking librarians may note that buying black peripherals instead of white ones will decrease the need for frequent cleaning. Software and Upkeep A lot of software maintenance should be relatively transparent to the end user of our PCs in a library setting.

The general rule of thumb is to have some sort of process whereby your PCs upgrade themselves at an off-hour time on a regular schedule, say weekly. I worked somewhere once where the system would do all crucial updates starting at 5: It was a suboptimal system. Thanks to bad software, malicious people usually in other countries, and a lot of misinformation spread through marketing channels and tech reporting, many people know how to blame computer viruses for their computer woes, but not how to address the issues that they think the viruses create. It is our job as maintainers of public computers, to not only minimize or eliminate viruses on public computers, but also to minimize the appearance of something not working right.

To a user A common error message that is more scary than helpful. People also come into the library or computer lab with their laptops concerned about an error message they are getting. This message may be from antivirus software, from a virus masquerading as antivirus software, from the operating system warning the patron about the lack of antivirus software, or from some combination of these. The usual troubleshooting steps that I might do—Googling error messages, checking software forums, and the like—are not necessarily tactics available to someone with low-tech literacy.

There are some basic things that can be done to troubleshoot oddly-working PCs: However, most virus eradication really is a lot of trial and error. This can be frustrating to people who see antivirus software as something that they are paying to eliminate this problem.

It can also be frustrating to people trying to solve the problem, since there are a lot of dead ends and re-assessment involved, nearly impossible to do when someone is looking over your shoulder. If you have a patron who seems to have regular trouble with viruses, it may be worth making one of your early web literacy projects teaching them to Google the error messages they are getting. There are a lot of people who are smart about computer viruses and will help you for free, but they hang out online and have to be interacted with there.

One of my favorite places for this sort of assistance was the Hijack This forum where you could run a piece of software on your infected PC which would spit out a bunch of gobbledygook, to be copied and pasted into the forums so that people who were experts in reading these logs could give you advice. This forum lives on as part of the general Malwarebytes Forum and is an incredibly useful place to go for malware removal advice.

Here are some preventative steps computer users can take before they have problems. I have also found this to be the case in my nonlibrary tech support work. If you set up a spreadsheet for someone, they will call you with Excel questions. Unless you have unlimited free time, my best advice on the topic of touching patron computers is: We know for a fact that people with disabilities are online less, and do less online.

What we can do at the library is to make sure that our public computing facilities are as accessible as possible to the widest variety of patrons. We should also make sure we communicate with all our patrons to make sure their needs are met and test out new technology services on patrons with varying levels of abilities.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act does strongly encourage public institutions under the pain of potential lawsuits from affected people to make their products and services accessible to the letter of the law, I think we should be doing more than that. I support the idea of universal design. The common example of this is curb cuts.

OXO products are another good example. However, our technology systems are often very malleable and customizable and we should be communicating this to our patrons through words and actions. This is especially true for the so-called invisible disabilities such as color-blindness or cognitive impairments, such as dyslexia, in addition to the category of people who may not consider themselves disabled, but who could use some accommodation such as people with bad memories or poor hand-eye coordination.

So, building accessibility into your service and technology offerings instead of waiting for people to request them is a forward-thinking way of trying to address all kinds of people. Since the public library is for the entire public, i. The level of accommodation we provide is dictated to a certain extent by the laws that govern us, but it should not be limited to the bare minimum. Checklist for PC Accessibility While acknowledging that real-world considerations occasionally get in the way of doing our best to provide access, this is a topic that requires assertive and continuous advocacy and rarely gets it.

Please see the Appendix and the Webliography at the end of this book for additional resources concerning designing for optimal accessibility. Below is a short and incomplete list of questions your library should be asking about the accessibility of your technology. Additionally, if you are providing access to software or websites through vendor relationships, you should be seriously pressuring vendors to make their products accessible.

If you are redesigning your website, accessibility should be a bare minimum of what you require from your designer. Let people know that you care about accessibility. Have a staff member in charge of adaptive technology. Work with local disability advocates to set high standards for accessible digital and non-digital content. Interfacing and Defaulting Going beyond basic accessibility requires extra work. My local library where I sometimes substitute recently switched over to Koha.

New users, unfamiliar with the idea of the online catalog generally, felt vexed by the login box, even though it was over to the righthand side and was not, in fact, necessary for searching the catalog. The librarian asked me if there was anything we could do about it. After a little Googling, it turns out that there was. We hid the login box using some straightforward CSS hack, and now the catalog has one search box. All I did was some copying and pasting. If possible, have the search box on the main page of your website. Or have two search boxes, one for the website and one for the catalog.

Let me give you this handout that explains the basic steps to do this. I now ask what they are ultimately trying to do and take the opportunity to teach. What do you do? In many cases, you point the patron to your public access PCs or possibly the PC you use for making reservations on the other PCs. This is the meat and potatoes of this book, the nuts and bolts of the thing.

This is not to say that the correct response is always to drop everything and chaper one the patron to an available PC and sit them down and start going through mouse exercises. Here are some building blocks for not just managing your available patron-helping time more effectively, but also having materials at the ready for patrons who could get going with just a little jumpstart and some handouts. Just having some handouts with current screenshots and circles and arrows showing people how to print a document or log onto Yahoo Mail will go a long way towards providing real help for people who are too often ignored and overlooked.

Tech Terms and Meanings At the beginning of every class I teach, I do a little segment on vocabulary. Similarly, it was a huge wake-up call for me to realize that for many older adults, the word database is pretty unfamiliar. These two topic ideas are more linked than you might expect. Meaning Is Use Along these same lines, if you expect students to know and understand words that explain technology, make sure to use them yourself in ways that are as unambiguous as possible as you explain the tools.

When I teach classes, I do a little introduction at the beginning, being clear about the fact that if I am using words that my students do not understand, I am not doing my job well. This is also when I point out the usefulness of websites like Wikipedia. When I teach a class in Photoshop, for example, I am often using terms that a student would be hard-pressed to look up in most conventional dictionaries.

However, Wikipedia not only includes long explanations of what each tech term mean—terms such as jpg, open source, and USB—but often interesting backstory on how that term came about, and links to references where people can read more about the term. And people viewing this video, discussing it on the web, were surprised! Lots of good books on getting started with technology have lists of vocabulary. Vocabulary Many of these technological terms do double-duty, and show up in a number of places.

The trick is to use them appropriately without students or patrons feeling that they need to memorize what the word postscript means in order to check their email.

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Learning technology is not like that. It requires an ability to adapt and learn in an ongoing fashion that can be daunting to people for whom change is somewhat agitating. Teaching people ways to look up words using Wikipedia or a technology book with a good index seems like it would also be a good early step in technology instruction. I often think about gradeschool classrooms that have colorful illustrations on the walls with the names of things in big letters: Perhaps, we need some illustrations with tech terms: So, I try to stick to terms like USB drive or Flash drive instead of jump drive or key drive or whatever brand name it may have.

Try to not pass on brands-as-names for tech products in your library, if at all possible as it only confuses things. As many people know, the word computer used to refer to the person who was responsible for doing the computing. People with jobs that required lots of calculations were called computers. Now, the word refers to the machine that is being operated by the person. Similarly, searching Wikimedia Commons is also a useful way to get many images of technological parts with use licenses that usually make them okay to use in at least an educational environment and often more.

I consider these sorts of handouts mandatory for a classroom setting. The trick from my perspective is to get people learning words that will help them as they use their computer and to talk to other people about it. I also show them how to open the CD drawer and how to close it by pressing on it, since the button can be hard to get to when the drawer is open.

People who have also not used a computer in years may also not know that all modern operating systems turn the monitor off when the computer is shut down. This did not used to be true and people may have habits based on older technology. I teach them to look for other signs of computer life such as a spinning hard drive tough to hear for older ears, but people can feel for vibrations , lights on the keyboard, or the startup beep. Show people the front and the back of the computer, how things like the mouse can be plugged in and unplugged while the computer is running.

This is true with our cars, our washing machines, and our computers. I will talk more about troubleshooting in the end of the next section. Very little about the monitor is controlled at the monitor itself, as opposed to by software in the computer, but a few things are. This will vary from screen to screen. Most monitors will work with most computers.

The good news about this is also that old bulky monitors are more or less free, so if you are someone or know someone who is trying to put together a bare-bones system, this part of their assembly is often very low cost. Keyboard Each part of a computer has a bunch of individual subcomponents that also need explaining. This is the part users will be interacting with the most. While my experience has mostly been that people have at some point in their lives used a typewriter, this is not always the case. So, certain things like typing a capital letter may need to be explained. Other things that are good to explain about keyboards include: This is the icon that you might see for it: Maybe the return key is a rectangle and not an L-shape, or maybe the function keys look different.

Try to be polite and compassionate about your response, while at the Without a Net Keyboards in Chars. I asked some people from Twitter what to be sure to mention about keyboards. These are some of the suggestions I received from them: When plugged in they become a working part of the computer. They are not only useful but easy to accidentally set and not know how to remove.

I have to install updates and then it looks different! So, in a keyboard situation, see if you can drag out a few other keyboards and show how the arrow keys may look different on different keyboards, but then explain how they do the same things. The same is true for Mac versus PC keyboards. Almost all the keys are the same, a few are different.

Users with older computers may see a few weird keys like the Sys Rq or Scroll Lock keys and you can tell them that they may safely ignore them. This is a great temporary solution if you just have a few users who could use this feature and it has the added advantage of being easier to clean than a standard keyboard. There are many different types of mice as well, and most are highly customizable. This can mean that picking up a random mouse in a random place can lead to a lot of unexpected results for a new user. My advice for a library setting is two-fold, have a very simple mouse with basic features, and have assistive devices available for people for whom mouse use is challenging.

The major other types of devices are: By the time someone has come into the library, they may have seen some or all of these options. Or they may have only used one option and are unaware that there are Basic Instruction and Explanations A generic-looking mouse. A mouse is a pointing device with a primary button and a secondary button.

Many mice nowadays also have some sort of rollerball device in the middle.

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This system takes time to be understood. The two currently available mice sold by Apple have no discernible buttons. One comes with a small rollerball on top that scrolls vertically and horizontally and is clicked by pressing down on the front part of the mouse. While these are, in some ways, advanced mice, they are also the only ones that come with current Mac systems so you may see students who have them or who are used to them.


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The Apple Mouse, the one with the roller-ball, comes in wireless and wired versions, while the Magic Mouse is only available with Bluetooth. Interacting with the mouse provides a good opportunity to talk about how the computer takes instruction from you. Tell students that their computer is basically a big dumb calculator, that it receives input from you and then does when you tell it.

The general order of operations to doing most computer tasks is: Indicate, Select, then Act. That is, tell the computer what you want it to do something to, then tell it what action you want to perform. So, in this example. Novice users often get confused between the location of the pointer—the I-bar between the words when and I—and the location of the cursor—the blinking line right before the word go. This is a critical point for them to understand. Similarly, when text has been selected, whatever you do next happens to the selected text, unless you click someplace else to deselect it.

So, in this example, starting to type will delete and replace the word where. As far as an easy set of steps, make sure users know: Indicate—point to the area 2. Select—click or double-click 3. Act—do the thing you want to do or tell the computer to do something You can explain how this works when choosing an item on a menu, or pointing to and clicking a hyperlink on a web page, or typing inside a text box.

Some of these are pernicious and some are helpful. Usually they can be found somewhere in the Control Panel for PCs or the System Preferences for Macs , but sometimes on a PC there is an entirely other piece of software somewhere on the machine controlling the input device. Anyone who builds a double-click into an online tool is doing it wrong. Make sure when students are clicking that the computer does not think they are doing a click-drag and trying to move the item they are trying to open.

Turning this feature off, an option that many students did not know was possible, was a huge quality of life improvement for them.