Friday, April 10, 2009
For about six months or so, I've been spending one hour a week with patrons and their technology questions. Technology Office Hour, a one-on-one session, was developed in an effort to customize, streamline, and personalize the learning process. In the past, I had struggled with some computer classes, and how to 'deliver' information that was well-paced, personal, and relevant to each individual. Classes were small, and attended by such a variety of ages and ability; it seemed that no matter how I described the session content, the attendees were so disparate that I wondered if I was really helping them as much as I was able.
The Power of Personalization
One thing that all my students have in common is the desire to learn through doing. Many times classes evolved into purely question and answer sessions, and I realized the value of a question that is answered specifically - seeing someone's eyes light up with understanding and excitement always won out over any doubts I may have had over class format.
During a normal workweek, part of what I do is answer 'short' questions from patrons. While I was able to help most of the time, there were many times that I wished I could just drop what I was doing, and devote more time to what they needed.
I discussed this feeling with my Director, Patsy Smith, and she gave me the go-ahead to 'set up shop' at our special use computer, and start giving weekly, personalized, one-on-one sessions. Patrons were then able to come in and ask any computer or Internet question, and I would do my best to help.
Not knowing what to expect, I did no publicizing, except for a notice in our weekly paper and word of mouth. I expected patrons to come in on a first-come-first-served basis, but it quickly evolved into people calling ahead for reservations.
Recently, I have expanded the program to two 45 minute sessions per week, and am booked on average about two weeks in advance.
It Works Both Ways
The benefit really is in the personal attention I give and receive from my students. I've found that they are less intimidated by the computer when I sit next to them and interact as we go. I've had a huge range of questions and abilities walk through the door; some are hardly familiar with the mouse, and most of the session consists of gently reminding them how many times they are to click on something and general navigation. Others that have questions about specific websites or software have been the most fun for me, as oftentimes I am hearing about a product that I was unaware of in the past.
But both types are teaching me as well. I am beginning to sense what types of learning styles people have, as well as how hard or lightly I need to push students to learn more.
I know that I will continue to learn and to be challenged by my students. It is truly enjoyable to see someone 'get it'; but this has evolved into something deeper. While I am still able show my passion for technology and helping people, my students have opened up to me, and can reveal their passions as well. Learning, sharing experiences, connecting with each other's excitement - it doesn't get any better.
Photo: Thank you, Perfecto Insecto.