Friday, December 21, 2012

Unintentional Techie

It cracks me up whenever someone else or myself thinks of me as a "techie". It doesn't seem like that long ago when the elementary computer class seemed so intimidating, even if we were just playing Oregon Trail and doing basic skills. I learned to type on a typewriter (ok, it was electric) as a freshman and we got our first computer around that same time. I learned programs in Mac Applications senior year (1998) that I don't think even exist anymore. Coding seemed so intimidating, although now I wish I had taken the computer science classes. Email in college was basic and journal article research was a mix of new material available online and rolling apart shelves to get to the bound volumes. By the end of grad school (2003), IM was still all the rage, distance education courses were picking up and you still had to be in college to get on Facebook.

I realized one key thing that took me from "tech is ok" to "I can do this" - realizing I can't break it. Oh, you can very easily lose whatever you are working on, but unless you physically drop the computer or device it is very hard to break it. Understanding this simple notion can be quite liberating. I learned how to use computers because I had to. It was part of the curriculum and I just picked it up along the way.

People assume that certain age groups are genetically predisposed to using technology and others are too far over the hill to get it. That couldn't be further from the truth. I teach high schoolers and university students and have seen these lines blurred many times. Some teens are resistant to technology and some AARP members are some of the most creative technology users I know.

I constantly tell my university students, many of whom are distance ed, that I make them use technology to try something new. I grade on content, not the scary program they were forced to use. I'm constantly reminding them that it is great that their teen helped them import the pictures, but they must learn how to do it for themselves because junior won't be at work with them. It is a tough job market out there and being afraid of technology just isn't an option anymore. My ultimate goal with my courses is not to just impart wit and wisdom - it's to prepare them for their dream job. Social media is critical for outreach to patrons and e-readers are taking a large portion of the market. Web 2.0 tools can take a library program from good to fantastic - often for free.

Technology isn't replacing libraries - it is making them evolve. Yes, it can be overwhelming at times, but it isn't impossible. Dismissing technology as something for the young or computer geeks isn't cute, funny, or professional. It is now a mandatory part of our job. You don't have to be Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. You just have to remember you can't break it - so what's the worst that could happen?

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