Step Away from the Technology

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I teach often teach about technology. As the manager of a Yammer communication and collaboration network, I teach both the “nuts and bolts” of how to use the technology, and I teach about how users can be most successful with the technology if they adopt a transparent, collaborative mindset.

The better I am able to teach people how to use the technology, the more our platform will be used, and the more our community of staff and volunteers will be engaged. I have taught many groups, both large and small, in person and virtually. Along the way, I have learned some valuable lessons about how we can best teach technology to people, regardless of their actual or self-perceived level of technological expertise.

  1. Leave the laptops behind
    People usually want to know if they should bring their laptops to one of my sessions. Makes perfect sense…if I am teaching them how to use a website, or a particular piece of software, it would make sense for them to have a laptop, or a tablet, or a phone within easy reach to actually with what I am teaching about. Makes perfect sense! Right? Wrong.When people are using their devices to engage in what I am teaching about, as I am teaching, they get lost. As I move stealth-fully along, they get bogged down in password issues, they lose their way on the website, and as I am talking about one thing, they get curious and click on something else.

    I ¬†encourage people to leave their laptops behind. Maybe bring a pad of paper and a writing utensil, but that’s it. Sit back, look at what I am teaching, and more importantly, let’s have a meaningful discussion about why you should use the technology I am teaching about, and how it can help you in your work.

  2. Don’t log on to the internet
    The technology I teach about is web based, therefore it would reason that I would want to make sure there is a fast, solid internet connection. That is, if I wanted to demonstrate the technology live. I don’t.Any one of a number of things can go wrong if we are teaching about technology using a live website in real time. The internet connection can go down. The website may not work. We may click on something we did not intend to click on. Attendee questions may cause us to focus on operations and functionality that bring us away from the intended focus of our presentation.Instead, take screen shots of what is being taught, and show those screen shots in a Power point presentation. This way, a lost internet connection will not affect what is being taught. Complete control can be maintained, and if an attendees question threatens to bring the presentation off track, that question can be addressed at a later date due to the fact that the instructor is only able to teach what is included in the Power Point.
  3. Don’t use technology at all
    I was recently asked to lead a staff learning session about the different technological tools available to our team to do our work. The only catch was that I was told I would not have internet access, and attendees would not have computers with them. I was asked to teach about technology without using any technology.Much to my surprise, it was some of the most effective teaching I had done. By completely ignoring the technology, we were forced to concentrate on the concepts behind the technology through conversation and activity. Why should we post in a collaborative platform? How can we extend the reach of what we are trying to share? How can other tools, connected to our platform, be helpful in our work? How can our technological platform support our work and help us engage our constituents?

    Our team felt engaged and involved in what was being taught. The presentation was participatory, not frontal. People ended up learning much more through conversation, co-creation and real time problem solving than they ever would have learned by staring at yet another boring power point.

Technology is where we work, it is how we get our work done. Though technological tools are an integral part of our work, sometimes we must take a step back, a step away from our screens and keyboards to really understand how the impact and function of these tools beyond a few carefully planned keystrokes or clicks of a mouse.

Step away from the technology, there is a lot to learn.

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