What could be more exciting than running a workshop on computer basics? Nothing! Today, I wrapped up a two day workshop that we called “Mac Essentials.” Five teachers attended, and we filled up the agenda ourselves between their questions and my thoughts. We covered all of the fundamental aspects of the Mac OS, such as the desktop, applications, documents, the dock, application menus, and the iLife suite.
In this age of social media and personal learning networks, it might seem antiquated to offer a workshop on computer basics. However, I suspect that most of our users have a working knowledge of their computer, not a thorough grounding. Users develop creative workarounds in place of right commands or tools. Today’s attendees expressed such gratitude for answering some very longstanding questions they had! We experienced a lot of “a-ha” moments when we covered keyboard shortcuts, PDF creation, and the Documents folder.
It remains a challenge to teach file server connections to beginning users. The fairly ordinary appearance of a network volume desktop icon does not reflect the conceptual leap of opening a window to another machine on the campus, location unknown! Perhaps the old Windows Explorer did the job better. A web browser certainly makes it clear that web pages are not on one’s computer.
What trainings do you offer your employees during the summer? How do you help your users both reinforce the basics and explore new tools?
As mentioned yesterday, our most popular technology training this summer is Managing Your Email Inbox. Far from old-fashioned, this topic hits most of our teachers and staff members head-on. Email is ubiquitous on campus, the most used technology for 200 employees to distribute information to individuals and groups of different sizes. It is common for employees to receive 100 emails per day, and they’re not of bad quality, either. Parents use email the most to communicate with teachers.
Despite the ubiquity of email, not all employees possess strong technical email skills. Whether or not email is an “old” technology, lacking these skills is a contemporary issue. Some attendees at today’s workshop came to learn to use a desktop email client for the first time. Others already knew how to use rules and folders but wanted to find out how their peers handled the email deluge.
We practiced tips from GTD, Inbox Zero, and Send today. We explored the triage technique to deal with new messages immediately and once when possible. We created rules to move listserv messages to subfolders and increase the relevance of inbox messages. We turned off notifications and set the mail check interval to 20 minutes. We encouraged ourselves to quit our email applications to limit distractions. We shared our own knowledge of reading techniques, since that was not emphasized in the materials I read when preparing the workshop.
Read the lesson notes here.
Photo source: biscotte
Training is one key success factor for our new website. Since June, I have personally led 15 group training sessions on how to post content to the new website, and a handful of us have worked with individuals to answer questions and help them accomplish their website goals. Divisions heads have required teachers to update certain parts of the website, such as classroom pages and our curriculum map.
49 users have been trained as “content managers.” I required employees to get this training before allowing them to edit core pages on the site. Teachers could gain access to classroom pages without attending a training, though many benefitted from doing so. The carrot worked, as many users got a more thorough introduction to the site than might have been the case had I not required it to gain access. Incidentally, I allow trained content managers to edit just about any part of the site — the more eyes, the better!
86 users have posted 1,500 pages to the website, not including me! (I have posted another 7,000, mostly by migrating our curriculum map and school archives into the site.) Most of the 86 users are employees, but a handful of parents (volunteer coordinators, parents of athletes) and students (science project and honors arts bloggers) have been active.
I feel like one has a limited window of opportunity when launching a new technology to hold people’s attention, build their skills, and solve issues with the setup. Today, people largely find the site easy to use and like the appearance. A limited number of exceptions exist, of course.
The website tour video has been viewed 437 times. The video outlined the main features of the site for users. Not everyone can attend a training, especially parents. We promoted the video through a home page badge and by reference in school newsletters. I can’t say how much the video has helped parents and students learn to use the site, but I imagine it has helped some.
We have started our summer tech training workshops, classes that the IT staff and our media arts instructor teach on topics that our employees select. These require a lot of time and preparation from our staff, but our employees highly value the opportunity to learn. Our offerings this year include workshops on desktop publishing, Excel, iPhoto, Picasa, Mac OSX and Windows XP Pro. I am pleased that operating systems were a popular choice this year, given how overall proficiency with basic features is pretty low. I blame the software companies for annually rolling out new eye candy that help them market the products while underemphasizing fundamentals that help people work better. I wish that more people wanted to work on web technologies in the classroom, but we will have more opportunities to work on that once the school year begins.
One challenge is the wide range of skill levels present in each class. Each teacher handles this challenge in her own way. I make the workshop highly project based and let the curriculum emerge from student interests and questions. This does leave me scampering around the room a lot answering questions and solving problems, but it keeps everyone working all the time at their level. This disappoints some students who come to the class expecting a lot of direct instruction, but most participants leave happy. I will teach the MacOS and iPhoto workshops. Do send any killer activity ideas that you have organized or encountered.