Trainer Outline – Working with Technology

Use or adapt this outline to offer your own Working with Technology workshop.


  • Introduce yourself, tell a story about a struggle you’ve had helping a library user with technology
  • Activity: Have students share their names and one way technology has made their life easier
  • Explain the expected outcomes for the training.
  • Set ground rules: Share ideas, respect ideas of others, ask questions, have fun.

21st Century Literacy Skills and Self-Directed Learning

  • Explain the importance of being able to access and critically evaluate Information, particularly online information
  • Discuss the definition of 21st century literacy skills and, in particular, what those skills look like in regard to technology.
  • Activity: Using three large post-it notes or a whiteboard, divide in thirds and label:  “Something you know really well,” “Something you know a little,” and “Something you don’t know at all.”  Participants will write their responses on small post-it notes and place under appropriate headings.
  • Discuss results of activity and have participants share their comments about what they know and don’t know. Explain that it’s impossible to know everything, but we can still be effective teachers. We are learners.
  • Handout: Technology Proficiency Checklist
    • Review proficiency checklist. Have participants check off everything they know.
    • Identify technologies from the handout that you would like to improve. Then identify ways to learn more about them: experimenting, taking a free online class, reading a book, asking for help, or other.

Technology Reference Interview

  • Discuss how to help patrons with questions and troubleshooting, even in areas where proficiency has not been attained, using recommended tools.
  • Explain that while we can’t know everything about technology, we can find the answers. If we start to treat tech questions like we do reference questions, we can gain confidence in our abilities to answer and solve tech questions. Start putting tech questions through a reference interview.
  • Activity: Discussion-Talk about why those tech questions you weren’t familiar with stump you.
    • Talk about reasons why they stump you. Afraid? Unfamiliar?
  • Handout: Technology Reference Interview
    • Explain “Reference Interview” definition-clarifying user’s needs and helping the user to find resources and information to meet that need.  Reference interview is a dialogue.
  • Reference Interview Steps:
    • Welcome
      • Be friendly, smile, start with a greeting. Let them know you are there to help.
    • Gather information with open questions
      • They may not have the right language to describe the problem and you need to help them figure that out. Dialogue tips: “tell me more. What do you want to be able to do? What have you tried? Let me take a look. Can you re-trace your steps for me?
    • Confirm the exact question
      • Clarify what they are asking. What program are they using? Which eReader? What are they trying to do? What do they need to accomplish?
    • Find information to meet the need
      • Just as you have a toolkit, those go-to resources for reference questions, you should also have a toolkit for answering tech questions. Favorite websites to use, discussion forums, tech books, etc.
      • Places to look for answers to technology questions: Google, website of the company, product, service-find the help menu, the “getting started” page, tutorials
    • Follow up
      • End by saying: Is there anything I can help you with? Did that answer your question?
      • Check back later to see how they are doing.
  • Activity: Assign stumper tech questions (from previous post-it note activity) to groups to work in pairs.
    • Model: Ask for volunteer first and trainer models the process first.
    • Scenario: one person is the patron w/ the question, one person is the librarian, conduct a “tech reference” interview, use resources to find answer
    • What did you learn? Was it hard? Did you answer the question?
  • The reference interview technique takes practice, so review it and practice. We all have the skills to answer these questions, even if we don’t know the program. Get used to asking the right questions and looking in the right places. Before you say “I can’t help you with that” try to think “How can I help them with that?”

Computing Environment Limitations

  • Library computing environments often have limitations. This can have an effect on technology instruction and patron assistance. Knowing these limitations, and how to work around them, is very important to customer service and to technology instruction.
  • Discuss restrictions in these areas. Give examples.
    • Time limits
      • Time limits can get in the way of teaching, or of computer use (tests, homework, job applications)
    • Internet filters
      • Internet filters sometimes block sites that do not contain pornography, like craiglist. Some sites that contain pornography will not get blocked by Internet filters.
    • Data storage
      • Sometimes data gets lost on library computers because people don’t save it properly. We can help them learn how to avoid that happening.
    • Wireless Internet connectivity
      • Handout:  Wi-Fi Brochure
      • If people need help with wireless Internet connectivity on their personal device, be careful how you help them. ALWAYS have them control their own computer, and explain to them that they are connecting to a public wireless network. Also, try not to ask them to change their advanced settings unless you really know what you are doing. They should be able to connect to the wireless without changing any firewall settings or other advanced connection or security settings.
      • Common problems with wireless connection on laptops: wireless antenna in computer is off, wireless connections are being managed by a different program/driver (especially common on Dells), computer is set to not connect to public networks, library wireless router needs to be reset, person is out of range of library wireless router.
    • Antivirus security
      • May limit certain types of file downloads, especially programs (.exe)
    • Laptops for checkout/offsite labs
      • May not work the same outside of building.
  • Handout: Library Computing Environment Limitations
  • Activity: Talk about restrictions in participants’ library.  Use the “Library Computing Environment Limitations” handout as a guide for discussion. Share stories/examples of limitations in this setting. If you don’t know some of the limitations, go back to your library and find the answers.
  • Homework: Finish filling out worksheet, find all the answers. Then, make notes of things you need to be aware when teaching classes or helping patrons.