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.


14 February, 2017 – 6 March, 2017: Mature Matrix: Library Services for Seniors

Mature Matrix: Library Services for Seniors was a 3-week course offered by ALIA in partnership with Sydney TAFE.  It was provided completely online, through Moodle, a commonly used learning management system in educational institutions.  The course aimed to help participants understand the characteristics and needs of older people, the services that are available to them in the community, and how to develop and implement targeted library programs, services and collections for older people.  The course was aimed at people working in public libraries.

I don’t work in a public library, so I thought that I might have some difficulty completing the course.  I have recently completed a 2-week placement in a public library, however, which I found extremely beneficial to my ability to participate effectively in the course. The course content was more meaningful for me having had experiences of adult programming in my library placement; e.g. the home delivery service, the community technology classes, and the lively knitters.  Having said that, the strength of the learning materials and resources with which we were provided was such that I am sure a person who was not working in a public library would still have been able to participate effectively.

The course content consisted of three topics, released weekly, and participants worked through the material and tasks at their own pace.  There were frequent reassurances from the facilitators to let people know that the material would be accessible after the official end-date of the course, as many joined the course late.  I found that I fell behind during the course because we had house guests for 2 consecutive weekends which took away my time to work on the course; so it was a relief to know that the materials would still be available post-end date.  It was wonderful that the course was so flexible; important for adult learners with jobs, families and other commitments.

Course requirements were clear from the outset, and participants knew what was required of them to achieve a certificate upon completion.  In order to ensure that participants were engaging with the learning materials, tasks were set and participant submissions were uploaded to the relevant forum on Moodle.  It was made clear that submissions would not be graded; participation (as evidenced by submissions to Moodle) was the key requirement.  The fact that the submissions were not graded was a great relief to me.  I find it difficult to get started on something if I know it is going to be graded.  I tend to procrastinate and spend too much time worrying if my submission is good enough.  As a result, I found this experience quite liberating – I could just get in and start (which I did).

I thought this course was excellent, and I got a lot out of it.  I feel like I learned a lot, and have come away with many practical ideas and resources to assist me in future work with older people in a public library.  I will do more ALIA professional development activities in the future.