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Aotearoa People's Network

Nelson - Computer training to ‘keep up with the kids’

Computing training on Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa PCs is helping improve the digital literacy of library patrons in Nelson.

Michelle Bryant, Information Services Librarian at Elma Turner Library in Nelson, guides library users through the often new and intimidating world of computing and Internet resources via a series of free computing classes given using APNK equipment.

Joining younger generations online

The classes introduce a range of digital resources and tools to users for whom blogs, RSS feeds, Facebook and research databases are unfamiliar territory - territory that class attendees are keen to explore. According to Bryant, often the curiosity and drive to learn is prompted by seeing younger family members at ease with the technology.

“…usually it’s ‘getting left behind by my kids’ for the younger parents (in their thirties and forties) or older parents saying ‘I want to be able to contact my kids or grandchildren by email’. A grandmother joined Facebook to be in touch with her grandchildren.”

Unlocking Library resources

In addition to social networking, the classes aim to introduce library patrons to the many online resources that Nelson Public Libraries has to offer - encouraging them to make the most of library resources. Resources that may well be inaccessible if a patron doesn’t know how to use a computer.

“The library catalogue and website are rich in content that non-users of the Internet are missing out on,” says Bryant.

But you’ve got to click before you can run, which is why the classes start at the very beginning with the basics – how to hold a mouse, clicking, dragging and fundamental keyboard skills – necessary first steps that can open up a world of online content, as Bryant explains.

“It’s important to offer real beginner classes as there are many people out there who haven’t had the opportunity to explore not only the internet but even keyboard skills – these skills are particularly lacking in people older than 40 who may never have learnt to type either…”

Friendly and informal learning

Classes are given in the library’s training room which has a suite of six People’s Network PCs, and the intent is that the classes be small, and relatively informal.

“…we try to create a friendly experience where students feel they can go at their own pace and experience learning in a small group”, says Bryant, who observes that for some patrons the classes are just the beginning.

“There are some students who I remember teaching… who are often in the library and they are now avid computer users so it’s rewarding from the teacher’s point of view too.”

Age not a boundary

Though most class attendees are in the 50+ age group, there’s no age limit on learning as Bryant recalls -

“…one of my star students in a Basic Internet class had never used a computer. Early in the class she told me proudly that she had achieved an award as 'Speed Typist of Britain' in the 1940s. She picked everything up quickly and had no trouble understanding the concept of the Internet. Whenever I hear 60 year-olds moaning that they’re too old to use computers I feel like mentioning my 92 year old student!”

September 2011

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