18 May, 2016: Digital Skills for Older Adults: Teaching Technology in Public Libraries

This 1-hour webinar, Digital Skills for Older Adults: Teaching Technology in Public Libraries, was produced by TechSoup for Libraries, a non-profit organisation that provides technology, resources and support to libraries and non-profit organisations.  TechSoup for libraries is a great professional development resource as it has an extensive archive of webinars that can be viewed for free, as well as articles and how-to guides to technology.  Guest speakers on this webinar included Steve Black, from TechBoomers, a free website that offers website and app tutorials directed at older people; and Kathy Faubion, from St Mary’s County Library, who provided tips and program ideas for teaching technology to older adults.

This webinar introduced me to new free sources of digital literacy resources targeted at older people, and those with limited digital literacy skills, such as TechBoomers, DigitalLearn.org, GCFLearnFree.org and Denver Public Library Technology classes.  TechBoomers, which was the main focus of the webinar I viewed, was interesting because its main focus was on teaching people how to use very popular websites and apps such as Skype, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and eBay.  I think this may be a point of difference for TechBoomers, as many digital literacy classes focus on basic computer use, email and the internet, but few focus in such a targeted way on applications such as the ones I just mentioned.  Black also spoke about the importance of having library “partners”, and actively encouraged libraries to use TechBoomers’ courses for their own digital literacy and technology classes.

Kathy Faubion provided valuable insights into the teaching side of digital literacy for older people.  She noted that more and more older people are required to use the internet and the Web for basic needs; e.g. tax or social security.  Faubion challenged assumptions that people might hold about older people; e.g. that they are unable to learn technology.  Faubion discussed using a variety of methods to reach older people to let them know about what is on at the library, including the local newspaper, in the library, online, or by word-of-mouth.  Faubion listed community outreach as another great avenue for connecting with older people.  Faubion provided tips on different ways of working with older people, including one-on-one, small classes, a series of lessons; and discussed the importance of keeping statistics and evaluating programs.

The value of this webinar was in the sharing of information about free resources to use in creating and running digital literacy programs, and practical tips on actually running the classes.  PD events such as this are useful for any new librarian starting out in digital literacy instruction for older people.  It is useful to know that you don’t need to develop teaching materials from scratch, but can look at resources which have already been developed, and use them as is, or modify them to fit your needs, and the needs of your users.

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