There’s one line in Jessamyn West’s commencement speech to the Goddard College’s Masters in Individualized Studies Program that popped out at me when I read it.
- what I love doing
(“I teach email to old people… no seriously it’s the best thing there is”)
In reflecting on the line, I was faced with a question: how many librarians who talk and present about web 2.0, mobile interfaces, and all other manner of technology in the library teach a basic computer class? The kind of basic computer class that starts off with concepts like “this is a mouse, this is a keyboard”. How many librarians that sit on technology or web panels stand in a computer lab and walk people through the basics?
I’m not just talking about teaching seniors here. I’ve taught this basic class to people who are just a bit older than I am (late 30’s, if you must know). It’s not that people who didn’t grow up with the technology or some other age/generation based explanation; these are people who just never made it a priority in their lives to have a computer or use one. Now, with employment applications going online or wanting to stay in contact with family members far away, they are looking to learning how.
Don’t interpret this as a statement that those who do not teach basic computers cannot make any commentary when it comes to library technology. It’s not meant to be nor should it be interpreted as one. I just believe that teaching a basic computer class has changed the way I approach the topic. When you are teaching such a class, your entire vocabulary changes as you find approachable and non-technical jargon ways of describing the computer and its operation. The ultimate lesson I try to impart to my students is to be adventurous, be curious, and don’t worry about clicking on “the wrong thing” because honestly you really can’t hurt the computer. There is so much agony raveled around “messing up the machine” that people forget that for the same price as replacing all four tires on a car you can buy two or three computers.
Not that I would encourage that either but you get the point.
For the scientist in me, there have been some very interesting observable moments. People touching the screen on the computer like an iPad or ATM screen to try to make it work. One individual who asked if they had to come to the library to get retrieve their email. And, my favorite, people picking up the mouse and try to use it by waving it around. (It’s my favorite because one of my graduate school professors related a story about this happening. I believed him, but I still wanted to see it for myself. And, oh boy, I have.) Most are actions and behaviors influenced by the other technology in their lives, but they are all genuine in their origin.
For myself, it is rewarding when you see people start to understand what they are looking at, to be less apprehensive about using the mouse or the keyboard, and to make that connection in their mind that they can do this. That’s the moment I help them towards and why I love to teach basic computer classes at the library.
Do you teach a basic computer class at your library? Or any computer class, for that matter? What’s your experience like?