Navigating the Digital Literacy Chasm

I’ll be honest. When I started putting together the training plan for Office 2013, I didn’t think much about it. I figured people will do, I will talk, and they’ll walk out of the class relieved that, just like every previous iteration of Microsoft Office, there’s a little bit different, but it’s still the same ole Word, PowerPoint, etc. So I whipped up a Prezi, and walked into class.

There’s a lot that I like about training. I like teaching people, and helping them see things differently, and also–hopefully–helping them learn things to help them do their jobs better, more efficiently, all that kind of stuff. But to me, Microsoft 2013 isn’t a session that really lends itself to those principles because it’s more or less an extremely high level run-through–a tips and tricks, as it were–and unfortunately, we’re not promoting SkyDrive yet for folks here, so the major, coolest thing wasn’t to be highlighted. I kept it in my slidedeck because it bears mention but more on that later.

Unfortunately, this premier session turned out to be a what NOT to do kind of session. My original plan of walking while people did exercises was not to be–the skills gap in the room was massive, people were confused when the icons weren’t on the desktop, and my plans of a high-level discussion were not to be. Half of the attendees were people who didn’t just want to learn about new features in Microsoft 2013–they wanted to learn the *actual* programs. In 15 minutes. Which is interesting, having held a few workshops over the spring for Intro to MS Office applications, and having had zero attendance.

Unfortunately, the other half were bored stiff, but were good enough sports not to rate the session as ‘abysmal’ on the feedback form. What did I learn from this experience as a trainer?

  • Never assume it’s going to be cake.
  • Never assume software proficiency.
  • Never leave any room for interpretation in the session description.

One thing I haven’t mastered yet is balancing those type of situations where you have such a wide variance in skill sets. Who’s got strategies to share?


  1. That’s horrible. About 8 years ago I tried to explain a content management system to a secretary. Turned out she’d used her pc like a typewriter with a screen and she’d never gotten beyond CTRL+S for saving. And printing everything she typed beforehand because she didn’t know how to find anything.
    Can you imagine what the documents folder looked like? “MeetingMinutes[47]”, … Well, she finally got a course covering all the basics. Just in time for her last 2 years before her retirement 🙂


    1. It is SHOCKING to me how often I come across interesting things like that. I just met someone who had never used the SHIFT key to capitalize letters–she always used her pinky to turn CAPS LOCK on and off!


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