“The ability to use technology improves quality of life by saving people time, exposing people to information, and allowing people to stay connected with family, friends, and communities of interest.” Multnomah County Library gets much of its curriculum from an organization called OASIS Connections, an organization devoted to lifelong learning. The curriculum is well-organized, uses plain language, and contains many easy to understand images. It is important to make the material relevant to the learner’s life. Going through rote exercises will not help an adult learner synthesize the concepts. Instead, the learner must be given the opportunity during class to practice skills that mean something in that learner’s life. For any class, a supportive, patient instructor is essential. The instructor has to be able to balance the needs of each individual student with the needs of the class as a whole. With this in mind, our instructors frequently have classroom assistants who can help individual learners who get stuck on a concept, allowing that learner to catch up with the rest of the class. The instructor also should be willing to work with the student to learn together.
What might be something surprising about your work that some people might not realize? All sorts of people come to the library to learn technology skills; our classes are definitely not limited to a certain age group.
Can you share a success story? A library staff person facilitates a very popular Chinese computer lab at one of our locations. We recently offered a beginning iPad class at that library, and some of his students signed up for the class. Then some more signed up, and more. In order to best serve these patrons, I added a note to the class description on our website to indicate that this class is geared towards people who speak Cantonese. The instructor (a wonderful volunteer) does not speak Chinese, but with help from the bilingual library staff person, the class was a great success.
In your opinion, why is digital literacy important? The ability to use technology well is imperative for success. Many employers accept applications exclusively online, and it would be exceedingly difficult to search for employment without using the Internet. The ability to find and evaluate health information empowers patients to act as partners in their own health care. Perhaps most important, the ability to use technology improves quality of life by saving people time, exposing people to information, and allowing people to stay connected with family, friends, and communities of interest. Amy Honisett is the Public Training Librarian at Multnomah County Library. She earned an MSLIS from Drexel University and an MA from Portland State University. Previously, Amy was the Education Librarian at University of Utah’s Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.
NTEN: CHANGE | MARCH 2015
Digital Inclusion and Technical Divides: What's Next?