Summer is almost upon us. For academic librarians, finals are over and the students are already gone. The lull between sessions is like music to your to-do list. If you are a school librarian, you are still shepherding the kids through their finals. Public librarians are gearing up for all the summer programs. Here in the south, the heat of summer is blazing and I am already looking forward to the Fall.
Summer is also the season when we take the time to conduct training for our staff, because for many libraries, summer is slower than other seasons (I know, public libraries, not for you!). For those of you planning some technology training for your staff, I have compiled a list of technology training tips to keep in mind.
Choose a tool or process that is already being used in your library but not being used well--a process that could be made easier, or a service that could improve.
The basic idea here is that technology should make our lives easier and it usually does...unless it is being used badly, and then it often makes things much, much harder than they need to be. Easier is always better when you are dealing with limited time and limited resources, and these days it seems like we all are.
Sometimes, we see that a tool is not working and our instinct is to throw a new tool at the problem. But sometimes it is not the fault of the tool. This is commonly referred to as PEBCAK an acronym for Problem Exists Between Computer And Keyboard; which is another way of saying that the problem is a user error. PEBCAK can often be fixed with some investigation, better training, and patience. Find the underlying issue and address that issue in the training. Perhaps the tool is not utilized well in the work flow; perhaps the original training was not successful because of attendance or skill level; perhaps there are some features of the tool that are underutilized and thus making the its use less successful.
When you focus on a known tool for training, remember to make it fresh. Do not repeat the same training and expect different results. This is common sense, but worth repeating. Do something different and make it fun.
Regardless of why you have chosen this particular tech training topic, always stress that your intention is to make the lives of your staff, patrons, and community easier, better, and sunnier. Remember that in the long run, this is the reason why most of us stick with certain technologies. We like them because they make our lives easier or richer in some way.
Make the learning steps simple.
For new trainers, this is one of the hardest things to learn--you have to go slower than you think is necessary and include every single step in your explanations. You must break every process down to its most basic steps. Small steps will help to ensure that your new learners, those completely new to the concept you are highlighting, will not get frustrated too easily and lose interest. You do run the risk of boring the more advanced learners, so know your audience well. Depending on the group, you may need an introductory session and an advanced session.
Make sure people are given time to both learn and practice their new skills.
Practice is extremely important, and I am not just talking only about hands-on practice during the session. Having time away from normal duties for training is essential to a successful training program. It is also important for people to have time during the work week to practice and use what they learned. This will require the support of management and some kind of integration for this kind of activity into the normal work flow of the day or week. At a time when our budgets and hours are strained, this can be very difficult.
Reward people for their efforts, even in small ways.
People like to be recognized for their work and they like rewards. Never underestimate the value of this basic concept. Rewards do not have to be big or cost a lot of money. Consider getting a local business to donate something to use as a reward for your staff.
Make it fun.
Do I really need to explain this? Turn the training into a game or competition. Be creative. Training does not have to mean a classroom atmosphere.
If you are creating an online component of your training, when choosing the tool to host the online learning environment, beware of the learning curve for that tool.
You do not want to make it difficult to learn both the hosting tool and the new skill you are trying to impart. Do this, and you will end up with a very frustrated staff. Minimize this by using a tool that your staff is already familiar with to host the environment, or by using one that is very easy to use.
Reinforce the training over time.
Make sure that the technology skills that you teach are used often in the work flow of your staff. Encourage the use of the new these technology skills. Plan future trainings that will build on the trainings you have already conducted. Have staff teach each other the technology skills they are learning. Becoming the teacher really is the best way to learn, so create an environment where peer learning and teaching is a normal, daily, supported activity.
You have the whole summer ahead of you. Happy training!