Archive for the ‘training’ Category.

Google, tech support, and your parents

Google has entered the tech support arena: http://www.teachparentstech.org/watch The short help videos are slick, and they’re appealing, at least to the target audience: a younger generation that is very tech savvy with parents or grandparents who are not.  One of my sons came across them and asked if I thought they would be helpful for his grandparents, who are in their 80’s.  I went to investigate.

The Tech Support care package is a set of quick videos intended to make using Google products easier.  It makes sense.  You have a product.  You do a market analysis.  Where can you expand? In technology, an obvious place to expand your market is the older adult population, which is the fastest growing segment of the population.  But there are problems with that market segment (see my Connecting the Disconnected series of posts, as well as the Computers, Older Adults, and Libraries page).  So Google, in a style very reminiscent of Apple, has created some help videos for basic computer tasks as well as for using Google products.  They are short (good idea), to the point (good idea), and friendly (good idea).  Some are good, some are fails.

The first issue is: how basic is “Basic”?  On the assumption that this is intended for someone who at least uses email (after all, the front page of the site is an invitation to email these helpful videos to the one you think needs them), how much existing knowledge does that presume?  Looking at the set of 6 basic videos, the following knowledge and skills are expected:

  • How to use the mouse, including the right and left buttons (or right and left side of the mouse).
  • How to click and drag
  • What the various special function keys are (such as the Control Key or Command Key) and where they are .
  • How to browse a computer’s file structure.
  • What a computer file is, and what the different types of computer files are (such as jpg, pdf, docx)
  • How to use email, including attaching files.

How reasonable are these expectations?  I fall back on the standard evasive answer:  That depends. 🙂  I have developed a lot of computer training and taught a lot of people how to use computers.  They have ranged in age from thirties to nineties.  They have had varying levels of computer skills across all ages (although, in general, the older they are, the less computer skills they have).  For those who had no experience with computers, my goal was to teach them how to use the internet, and how to use email.  Once they reached that level, I could teach them more advanced things like bookmarking web sites, basic computer skills and file structure, and sharing photos.  Some of these videos presume more skills than I did even for the next step beyond the new user level.  For example, files and file structure, and email attachments were elements in our more advanced user classes.

As an aside, Gmail was one of the email services we tested on the new user groups.  It did not work out well, because (1) Google kept changing the service and interface, and (2) it was too confusing for a typical older user to figure out.  I tried to contact Google about creating a user interface that would work for older adults.  Obviously, I didn’t get their attention.

So the videos really aren’t all that basic, except to technologists who find the featured tasks unbelievably mundane.  But how useful are they to their intended audience (the older adult who already has some computer skills)?  Again, it depends:

  • How old is the recipient of the “Care” package?  The older the person is (generally, 55+), the more they need explicit instructions, using discete steps. The visuals are nice, but sometimes they move too fast and skip over steps.  Also, the language is often not explicit enough for an older adult.
  • How experienced is that person with computers?  This question is actually tied to the next one.  Older adults do not tend to keep up with changes in technology as much as their children/grandchildren.  But generally, the more experience they have, the less difficulty they have learning new, related skills.
  • What operating system, and what version of the operating system, is that person using?  Because older adults tend to not update their skills (learn why here), they are usually using an old computer and operating system (it was not uncommon to have students in my classes who were using Windows 98).  The changes from Windows 98/2000/xp to Win7 or OSX Snow Leopard are intimidating to an older adult (again, generally, 55+).  These videos assume the recipient will be comfortable using one of those operating systems.  That is a big assumption.

Bottom line: If the intended recipient of these cute care packages is under 55, and has some experience using a recent operating system, the videos will likely be both handy and useful. If the recipient is over 55 and/or is not using a recent operating system, a few of the videos would be useful:  How to Create a Strong Password, How to Know if an Email is Real, and most of the Search Information videos.  Also note, there are a lot more Mac-centric videos than Windows.

Would it work for my parents, in their 80’s, who have been using computers since the first Apples came out, and currently have Snow Leopard?  Actually, no.  They would have difficulty following most of them, and for the rest, they wouldn’t see the point.

Computer Classes for Libraries and others

I promised this long ago, so it’s way past time to get these posted.

Feel free to modify and reuse these.  They are provided under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial 3.0 license.  If you require other terms, leave a comment with your contact information, and I will get back to you.  Please note the powerpoint files are rather large (>4MB).

portablesoftware This is a powerpoint program covering Portable Software:  what it is, how to install it, where to get it, and how to use it.  There are two handouts that go with the program: Install Portable Software and Start Portable Apps Handout, both Open Document Text (.odt) documents.

eBooks and Audiobooks This is a powerpoint program I created for the Palm Beach County Library System, so there are still some vestiges within the show. The handouts for this were specific to that library, so I have not included them.  Contact me via the comment form below if you want them.

Beginning Internet This is a powerpoint program on Internet Basics for beginners.

I will post more as I get them cleaned up.

Libraries and Web 2.0

The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County started a learning program for its employees a few years ago called 23 Things. It was intended to help people learn about new Web technologies that have changed the way we interact with the Web. It was evidently successful, and other libraries followed suit, using the formula and exercises set out by the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Library.

Their site says that (as of May, 2006) there are over 200 libraries who are using their Web 2.0 (23 things) learning tool. It’s a pretty neat set of exercises. But I have some suggestions for anyone in a library thinking of implementing this program.

  1. Don’t have all your employees sign up for Gmail to be able to use Blogger (which is now owned by Google). They can get a Blogger account with any active e-mail address. When Google sees 300+ or 100+ or even 50+ e-mail accounts being generated, and accessed, from the same IP address, and Blogger accounts instantly created with those accounts they’re going to think one thing: Spammers! Actually they aren’t doing the thinking, they set up bots to capture just those types of events, so they don’t have to think about it. Once you’re flagged as a spammer, forget trying to get the e-mail account unblocked.
  2. Unblock the content you want staff to be able to access. This would be a good time to take a closer look at just what your filter is blocking and whitelist those inocuous sites you want the staff to be able to play with.
  3. A lot has happened since 23 Things first appeared. If you are going to encourage learning technology, don’t limit the discussion and exercises to old technology. Do a little research, hang out at technology conferences, follow technology feeds, talk to a tech-savvy person, and find out what is current and what is coming down the pike. Then change or add to the discussion to make the exercise current and relevant.  Seriously.  Others have already made changes.  You can, too.
  4. If you haven’t already, read The Cluetrain Manifesto, available online or in print.  This really is an absolute must for administrators, whether you’re doing the 23 Things or not.

And, of course, you deserve great commendations for taking this step into Web 2.0.  Welcome!

Excellent training guide

This comes from Karen Vargas, via the Seniorserv discussion list. The National Institute on Aging has created a Toolkit for Trainers, with guides and curriculum for use in training seniors in Web skills and finding health information. From the press release:

Trainers who download the toolkit at <www.nihseniorhealth.gov/toolkit> will receive a set of materials they can customize to their students’ skill levels and interests. These include lesson plans, student handouts, Web searching exercises and illustrated glossaries. An introductory video gives a quick overview of the curriculum and a glimpse of Internet classes in action. Tips on how to set up a senior-friendly computer classroom also are provided

I have only glanced at the class materials. What really caught my eye was the “Quick Tips for a Senior Friendly Computer Classroom,” under “Training Tips” near the bottom of the page. It is a nicely done PDF with a very organized way of looking at training seniors. There are several suggestions I had not thought of before (or hadn’t thought seriously about), such as asking the students if they are comfortable being addressed by their first name, and providing space on handouts for students to take notes. I can attest that the rest of the suggested tactics work well (full disclosure: one of my articles is cited in the bibliography).

There are only a couple suggestions I would take issue with. The first is the suggestion to keep class length to around 90 minutes or less. My rule of thumb, from experience, is 60 minutes or less. The other suggestion is to have students work in pairs during hands-on activities. It sounds like a good idea and does work well some of the time. But on many occasions I have also seen pairing students become a detriment to one of the two students. This usually happens when one is significantly more advanced on the computer than the other, or when the two are married. In both cases, one will dominate and the other will passively allow the other to control the session, and learn nothing.

That said, this is a guide that should be in every trainer’s hands as they prepare for classes and training sessions with seniors. Definitely check out the materials.

Connecting the Disconnected: Tip #8

Nearly everyone who takes computer classes at our library does not want a book about how to use a computer. The typical response is, “I can’t learn by reading a book. I have to be shown how to do it.” There are many different learning styles. Some learn by watching. Some learn by listening. Some learn by taking notes. Some learn by doing and re-doing. All of us learn from mistakes.

Older adults, although they are more careful, in order to avoid making mistakes (one of the reasons they go more slowly), and despite their best efforts, will make mistakes while learning to use the computer. To those of us who grew up with computers or live with computers now, the mistakes can seem pretty incredible. More importantly, those newbie mistakes are usually easy to fix, so the typical response is to just fix it for them with one or two mouse clicks.

With very few exceptions, however, it is better to allow them to fix their mistakes by telling them what happened, why it happened, and walking them through, step by step, how to fix it. Although it takes longer, if they made the mistake once, they will probably do it again, so learning how to fix it themselves is important. It also helps take the mystery out of computers and raises their confidence level. Sometimes we even help them make a mistake, if it’s a common one, just to teach them how to fix it. For example, sooner or later they are all going to click the right mouse button and get a popup context menu. So, when training novices, we tell them to click the right mouse button, then explain what they are seeing and why, and how to close the popup menu.

Tip #8: Mistakes are learning opportunities. Teach them how to fix their mistakes.

Connecting the Disconnected: Tip #7

The older we get, the more we know. But sometimes that gets in the way of learning (see Tip #5). The process of learning, of itself, becomes more difficult due to factors in aging. Learning new concepts for familiar terms inserts a certain level of confusion into the process, enhanced by the declining ability to exclude the prior associations with those terms in order to learn the new associations. Frequently combined with this is a decline in hearing, caused by both physical and cognitive factors. The physical factor is the declining ability to hear sounds. The cognitive factor is the declining ability to distinguish sounds, caused by cognitive slowing and by neural noise (random signals that are unrelated to actual stimulus). This means what is actually getting through (what can be heard) is getting lost in distractions of prior associations and unrelated associations as the person attempts to “decode” it and make sense of it, causing increased difficulty in understanding what is being said. When this happens in the context of learning new terms and concepts, the ability to hear and understand becomes even more strained.

Rapid speech is obviously not going to work well with this group in a setting where they are learning something new. But slowing down the speed will not completely solve the problem. It is just as important to be very precise and explicit, and to enunciate clearly. Keep in mind many consonant sounds are similar. To older adults with hearing problems, words like com and con sound the same, and they may not have learned enough about the Internet to put “com” into context.

Because of the declines in hearing, context becomes even more important to older adults’ ability to decipher and understand speech. Precise and explicit speech will help keep them on track and in the correct context. For example, spelling out what is to be typed is a good idea, and to be more precise you could use phonetic alphabet words (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.) to indicate the specific letters. But unless you explicitly say, for example, “type the letters C as in Charlie, O as in Oscar, M as in Mike…” some will just start typing the words you say.

Tip #7: To lessen the effects of hearing loss and related issues of aging, speak slowly, using language that is precise and explicit.

How to do that visual stuff in handouts (OpenOffice.org)

Here is an example of a handout created in OpenOffice.org Writer, using screenshots:

healthreshandout.jpg

The post on how to do this in MSWord is here. This particular post applies to OpenOffice.org 2.0 on Windows. Although most of the handouts on the ncrlab eSnips page were done in MSWord (a few are in WordPerfect), I actually use OpenOffice.org for handouts now instead of MSWord. It’s just more portable. It’s also easier in some ways (although there are a few minor gripes I have).

Since this is Windows, get screenshots using the Print Screen key and the Paint program, as described here. Once you have the images saved, open the OpenOffice.org Writer (select “Text Document” from the options). Click on the View menu, then go to the Toolbars submenu and click on the Drawing option to make the drawing toolbar available:

ooviewdrawtoolbar.jpg

The toolbar will be visible at the bottom of the page. To insert an image into the page, click on the button on the draw toolbar to insert an image from file.

ooinsertfromfile.jpg

Navigate through the dialog box to the picture you want to insert (in this case, the large one from the Print Screen exercise), and open it. Notice the Grahics toolbar that automatically appears docked at the top of the page. Right click on the image and click on “Picture” to get to the picture properties dialog window:

oortclickimage.jpg

It is not necessary to change the image wrap; the default works just fine. However, if you have problems shifting the image on the page, change the image wrap to “Optimal.” The best way to resize the image is to check the box to keep the image ratio then adjust the height or width by typing in the target size or using the arrows beside the boxes to adjust the size. With the “Keep ratio” box checked, the size will stay proportional as you increase one side (either height or width). This is also an easy way to make sure similar images are the same height or width.

ooimagekeepratio.jpg

Click the OK button to get back to the image. Now reposition the image by clicking inside the image and dragging it to where you want it on the page:

oomovepicture.jpg

You could also resize the image by clicking on one of the corners and dragging diagonally, but the aspect ratio will not be automatically preserved as it is when changing the size in the picture properties dialog window, so it may end up stretched in one direction or the other.

ooimageresize.jpg

Insert the smaller image using the same steps, arranging the two images on the page beside each other. Now add a box to the larger image. Click on the box shape button on the toolbar and select the rounded rectangle from the popup display.

oodrawboxmenu.jpg

Click and drag across the part of the larger image that was copied to create the smaller image. An opaque box will overlay the image:

ooopaquebox.jpg

Next, remove the fill by clicking on the “color” drop down menu in the graphics menu at the top of the page, and selecting “invisible.”

oochboxcolor.jpg

Now change the line width, and color (if desired), by clicking on the related drop down options on the graphics toolbar:

oochlinewidth.jpg

oochlinecolor.jpg

Do the same for the smaller image, creating a box around the whole image, and changing the line width and color to match the box on the larger image.

Now draw lines connecting the two boxes: Click on the line tool on the Drawing toolbar at the bottom.

oodrawline1.jpg

Now click on a corner of one of the boxes and drag the cursor to the corner of the other box, creating a line between them. Then change the line width and color, just as you did with the boxes.

oodrawline2.jpg

Create another line between the two opposite corners, adjusting the color and width as with the first line. The final effect should look something like this:

oodone.jpg

The boxes and lines can be moved by dragging when the cursor turns into a four-way arrow over them.  If the box is snapping to a grid rather than staying precisely where you move it, hold down the Alt key while dragging.  This will override any grid restrictions.

How to do that visual stuff in handouts (Windows MSWord)

I have told a lot of people, and posted advice here, to use handouts with visual cues, like this one:

gsclass4handoutgm.jpg

Someone asked how to create this type of handout with screenshot images, so here’s a rundown on how I do it in Windows. I have used OpenOffice.org, Word and WordPerfect, but this post will only cover MSWord; I’ll do OpenOffice.org and WordPerfect posts next.The first step is to get screenshots. If you don’t know how to do that, see the instruction page for Windows.Once you have the images saved, you are ready to put the images into the handout document. Open MSWord. I usually do this in Word 2000 or Word 2002, but these steps should work in Word 97. Make sure the Drawing Toolbar is visible; if it isn’t, go to the View menu, select the Toolbar option, and click on Drawing if there isn’t a check by it already. It should appear at the bottom of the window.

selectdrawingtoolbar.jpg

Type whatever text or instructions you are going to use, and move the insertion point a couple lines below the text (by pressing the “Enter” key). Click on the “Insert Image” button on the Drawing Toolbar:

paintinsertpicture.jpg

Navigate through the dialog box to the image you want (in this case, the larger image saved in the Print Screen exercise), and select it to open. If the Picture Toolbar is visible (notice it “floating” above the image in the example?), click on the text-align button. (If it is not visible, right click on the image and move the cursor to the align option.) Choose the “Tight” option in the menu that drops open.

formatpicturetextwraptight1.jpg

Resize and reposition the image where you want it (notice the enclosing box disappears and the black square “handle” boxes have been replaced with circles) by clicking and dragging on one of the corner dots (to resize) and clicking inside the image and dragging (to reposition).

formatpictureresize.jpg

Click on the “Insert Image” button again, and navigate to the smaller image to insert it. Change the image alignment as with the larger image, and position it where you want it. Click on a corner and drag to enlarge the image when the cursor turns into a double arrow.Click on the Auto Shapes button at the bottom and choose the rounded rectangle from the Basic Shapes options.

paintbasicshapesmenu.jpg

Now move the cursor to the part of the image you copied earlier and drag across what you had copied. An opaque box will overlay the image.

drawopaquebox1.jpg

Move the cusor back to the Drawing toolbar and click on the “Fill” button. Select “No Fill” from the pupup menu.

drawboxnofill1.jpg

Click on the “Line” button and select a wider width.

drawboxlinewidth.jpg

Click on the “Color” button and select a different color, if desired.

drawboxlinecolor.jpg

Repeat these steps to put a rounded rectangle around the smaller image. You can resize the rectangle at any time by clicking and dragging its corner. If the boxes or lines seem to be snapping to a preset grid (they won’t change position to exactly where you want them), hold down the Alt key (next to the spacebar) while you click and drag.Now click on the Line button and move the cursor back onto the document.

drawlinetoolb.jpg

Click on one of the corners of one of the drawn rectangles and drag across to a corner of the other drawn rectangle so there is a line from one box to the other.

drawlinebox2box.jpg

If the line is not the right thickness or color, change it now using the line width tool and color tool you used for the boxes. You can also change the length of the line by clicking and dragging one of the ends.

drawlinechcolorwidth.jpg

Draw another line from an opposite corner of one box to another corner of the other box.There is only one thing left to do: “glue” them all together. Click on one of the lines or boxes. Hold down the shift key and click on each of the drawn units until they are all selected. Keep holding down the shift key and click on the images as well, so that everything is selected.Click on the “Draw” button on the Draw toolbar. Click on the option that says “Group.” Now the images and boxes will stay together as one group as you continue to add to or edit the page.

drawgrouptogether.jpg

Connecting the Disconnected: Tip #6

The cognitive slowing that occurs with aging affects an older adult’s ability to maintain linear connections required for learning. Most teaching involves steps, but the older adult’s ability to remember those steps is affected by the aging process (see Tip #2). What may seem obvious for younger learners can no longer be taken for granted. They will not necessarily make the connection between a cause and effect without explicit instructions broken down into discrete steps. An instruction to “click on ‘New’ in the File menu” may be easy for a younger learner, but what the older adult hears is “file” and “new” and tries to figure out what is where. They need an instruction like the example above broken down into discrete steps, such as: “Move the cursor to the upper left corner and click on the word ‘File’. Move the cursor over the word ‘New’ in the list that opens. When the word is highlighted, press the left mouse button.”

Consistently using specific step by step instructions begins to take the mystery out of computers for older adults. It also reduces the load on their processing, which is already taxed.

Also, since repetition is important (see Tip #4), handouts or other materials intended to give them practice should use discrete, numbered steps. Numbering is important as a way of isolating each step. For example, instructions to copy and paste might be broken down into four distinct steps: highlighting something, copying it, moving to the destination, and pasting. Each step should then have detailed instructions. Using the example to copy and paste, printed instructions for steps one and two might look something like this (but would, of course, include relevant visual cues):

Step 1 (highlighting):

Place the cursor on the item to be copied

Hold down the left mouse button and drag the cursor across the item

When the item is highlighted, release the mouse button.

Step 2 (copying)

Move the cursor to the top of the window

Click on the word “Edit”

Move the cursor over the word “Copy” in the list that opens

When the word “Copy” is highlighted, press the left mouse button

Tip #6: Use discrete, step-by-step instructions, both verbally, and in printed materials

Where to find the videoclips

After much trial and error, (there’s probably another post coming comparing video sharing sites), only one site has successfully uploaded and converted part two of the Connecting the Disconnected videos. It is not the sharpest image rendering, but at least it works. 🙂 I much prefer dotsub.com, but they are still working on why the clip, which works perfectly on my end, stops halfway through playback after uploading. This is what happens on all the other sites except for (drum roll, please) Grouper.com. One is supposed to be able to embed the video at Grouper here in WordPress, but after several failed tries, I have given up on that.

So here are the links to the two videos:

Connecting the Disconnected, Part 1

Connecting the Disconnected, Part 2

Be sure to turn the sound on for Part 2 🙂

These are from the first half of my presentation at the pre-conference workshop on Libraries, Older Adults and Technology, and are intended to give you a glimpse of what it feels like to be older and trying to learn new technology. Enjoy!