I spend a lot of my time teaching basic technology workshops at my library. Many of the participants in these workshops have never had the opportunity to learn about computers or technology. For some, sitting down at one of our laptops may be the first time they have even touched a computer.
In my first workshop I always warn them away from frustration. Think of it, I say, like you’re learning a new language, which in many ways they are. This usually puts them at ease. When learning a new language there is never an expectation that the student start out at a certain level or with a basic understanding. If someone takes a beginning French class, no one is going to judge them for not knowing the meaning of merci. This starts to erase the stigma around technological illiteracy and relaxes the classroom. Things can progress (slowly!) from here.
However, there inevitably reaches a point where we get to the more abstract terms. Everyone has heard of the “cloud” but how can I explain it to someone with a very basic understanding of technology or the Internet? More importantly, how can I explain it without making them feel stupid? How can I explain it well?
My answer to those questions are as simple as they are obvious: First, with patience. Then, with repetition.
But sometimes it’s more complex than that. Here is where language comes back. Many of our terms – our metaphors – are so abstract that they are difficult to understand. Like the “cloud”. It’s a catchy term but it misses a lot and confuses our understanding. Emails are not floating around our atmosphere.
But confusing our understanding isn’t the most insidious thing that some of our metaphors do. Frank Chimero reminded me of this the other day. He says:
I think there’s a strong likelihood that metaphors like “The Cloud” and sayings like “It Just Works™” reduce a user’s appreciation of the software/hardware they are using. “Magic” is a great word for selling product, but it also can cheapen all the sweat it takes to get there. If the seams have been covered, you can’t admire how things connect.
I had scanner envy last week when I got to play with the Bookeye at the Binghamton University library.
But that was nothing compared with how much I want the new ScanStik. Priced at only $160, it’s a much more cost-effective alternative. Plus, it will fit in my backpack.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend Thursday in Ithaca, NY attending Michael Stephens‘ Taming Technolust Workshop. Michael and I have communicated via social networks for the last few months and it was great to finally meet him in person and to take part in his workshop. Additionally, due to the interactive nature of Michael’s workshops, I was able to meet several librarians and hear their perspective on everything from Ebooks to QR Codes to social media to mobile devices – and everything else in between. It is surprising just how much was covered in 6 short hours.
During the workshop Michael briefly touched on the fact that librarians should be ready and willing to learn from sources outside LIS and then apply it to the profession. This is something that is of particular interest to me. In fact, I even wrote a guest post on Hack Library School about non-LIS blogs that LIS students should follow.
This leads me to TED. Throughout the course of the day topics would come up that kept reminding me of some TED talks that I have seen. I have been an avid TED viewer for years and watch one while I eat lunch almost every day. Following Andy Woodworth’s lead, I’ve compiled 5 TED talks that I think every librarian should watch. All five of these relate back to something that was discussed (briefly or in-depth) during the Taming Technolust workshop.
Early in the day the term “Learning Analytics” was used. In this TED talk Salman Khan discusses the Khan Academy, which gives us a good idea of the direction that learning is headed and how educators can track their students progress and offer them focused help.
During the short augmented reality discussion the topic of museums came up. What are they going to look like in the future? Will everyone just be walking around looking at their gadget? Well, what if we don’t even have to go to the museum at all? Amit Sood explains how he created a very detailed digital museum. This talk has a lot of implications for digital libraries as well.
An entire group dedicated 30 minutes of their time to thinking about gaming in libraries. In this talk, Jane McGonigal discusses how gaming is shaping young minds and the learning potential she sees in them.
The workshop was called Taming Technolust; so, obviously, there was a lot of talk about new gadgets. Though there seemed to be a lot of “techno-uncertainty” with both librarians and patrons, I ask how someone could watch Mike Matas give this demonstration of what a book could look like on the iPad and not be excited. I also wrote a bit about what this can mean for education HERE.
As libraries move towards more “social” spaces focused on access to the Internet and electricity, the future of the web is something in which librarians are going to be heavily invested. Kevin Kelley explores what the next 5000 days of the web might look like in this talk.
Kostas Grammatis: Internet as a Human Right