community technologist, on the job

This is another “what I do all day” post. Today is Monday and I don’t have scheduled classes or anything else. I handed in my article for Library Journal last night and I woke up all ready to go. I messed about on MetaFilter for an hour or so. The guy who runs the site is en route to Hawaii and we changed the length of time you have to wait before you can ask a question on Ask MetaFilter (used to be you’d wait a week, now it’s two — we’re experimenting with ways to keep the questions from flying off the front page). There was the predictable backlash and I tried to explain things and keep people upbeat about all of it.

Then I went swimming and discussed the lack of available lifeguards with the guy who runs the pool. I said I’d be interested in training if I could get a free membership or something similar. He said it sounded like a good idea. They have students as lifeguards and it’s hard to find coverage over breaks. I swam 3/4 of a mile. Then I went to the library at the same school and paid for the library book I had lost. Yes it’s true, I lost a book. In all my travels and all my book checking out from my six or seven libraries, I had misplaced this one. I thought I had returned it but it never showed up. So, I paid the replacement cost and a $10 processing fee and got to check out more books the same day. It was perfect. I said I was sorry and there was no lecture, no beatdown and no evil looks. I lost a book and I paid to replace it.

I drove up north to my boss’s house. She’s my friend as well. Together we’re bringing Randolph into the 21st Century with all our computer classes, but I digress. She recently moved and had just gotten DSL and could not make it work. I plugged it all in and yup, it wasn’t working. I did my standard unplug everything one thing at a time routine and sure enough, the splitter, the thing that she plugs her phone and DSL modem into, was broken. This was great news because it was the cheapest part of the entire equation and simple to fix, but oddly not covered in any of the troubleshooting info in the manual, even though they supply the splitter. We rejoiced and she made me lunch — homemade soup with crusty bread — and talked about our holiday plans. On my way out, I called my next stop and the lady I was visiting said “What would you like for supper?” My friend sent me home with a box of pears she had received as a gift from a friend who didn’t realize she was allergic.

I drove south to Brookfield where on of my students lives in a converted schoolhouse, the schoolhouse that she went to school in, actually. She has a killer view of the Sunset Lake Floating Bridge but it was too late to get a good photo of it. She has two developmentally disabled women who live with her and one of them uses the computer to keep a journal. She has vision problems. You can see a screen capture here, we’re talking Windows 98, high contrast, low resolution, etc. Even though Windows can do this, it’s not pretty. She bought a printer, a newer HP, and was trying to install it, but the installer program wouldn’t work on a computer that was set to less than 256 colors. I’m pretty sharp, but the computer she had, despite having a newish looking monitor, would not accept any drivers that would let it show more than 16 colors. This was fine for the woman who used it, but not for Hewlett Packard, whose installer quit with an error.

So after some more fussing it became clear that you could install the drivers for the software as long as you didn’t run the installer program itself. That is, the installer program needed 256 colors, not the drivers that actually run the printer. So I did that, changed a few things to make the computer easier for someone who can’t see very well [remove stupid login window, make talking paper clip go away, etc.] and then we sat down to supper and I heard stories of the time in 1968 when they were building the interstate and some big piece of road building equipment tried to go over the floating bridge and tipped over sideways. The truck was in the pond for two years, I hear. We had chicken and salad and biscuits and potatoes and cupcakes for dessert.

Then I came home to more MetaFilter and spent a little bit of time making my handouts for my final class in the Introduction to Microsoft Word series. One of my end of year plans is to make all the handouts available so that other people who want to run these basic classes will have an idea of how they run. I have eleven adults in my class that have basic mouse skills. The class runs for five sessions, ten hours total. We’ve been learning how to set margins, format text, and all that other good stuff. Tomorrow we’re going to learn to insert pictures into a The Gift of the Magi.

Then I wrote this, and now I’m going to bed.

2 comments for “community technologist, on the job

  1. 19Dec06 at 9:43

    Metafilter: predictable backlash.

    (Oops, wrong site!)

  2. a.j.
    20Dec06 at 10:04

    You wrote: “One of my end of year plans is to make all the handouts available so that other people who want to run these basic classes will have an idea of how they run. I have eleven adults in my class that have basic mouse skills.”

    That would be FANTASTIC. I’ll be delivering my parents’ new computer this weekend to them and I am terrified of training them. They are 76 and 70, very smart people, but hesitant with technology. I would love to be able to access any of the handouts you do, even ones on basic computer skills. (To be honest, I just got them Microsoft Works, because the full Office would have terrified them.)

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