How to prep your workshop for digital literacy success

Implement these 3 tips to ensure more library staff actually use what they learn in their work to achieve digital literacy success; and do so willingly.
Jun 19
Title: How to prep your workshop for digital literacy success

It’s 5 minutes before your workshop starts. Library staff saunter into the training room in small clusters and wait for you to begin.

You have spent hours preparing the content and know your stuff inside out.

You’ve got this.

The workshop runs like a dream. Everyone follows along without any trouble and miraculously there aren't any technical hiccups.

But... a week later many staff are behaving as if they've forgotten everything. When you finally pluck up the courage to ask why, you hear the same old excuses:

  • I can’t because…
  • I like doing it this way because...
  • It didn't work when I tried it yesterday...

You sit at your desk and sigh. Again.

 And a small part of your “Awesome Librarian” heart breaks.

 You know this feeling, right?

 I know this feeling.

 And it SUCKS. 🙁

But what if I told you it doesn’t always have to end this way.

You see, over the course of my career I've run more than 100 workshops for library staff and I've learned a couple of tricks that will get library staff to transfer what they learn in a workshop to their current practice (a.k.a digital literacy success).

The key is in the preparation.

If you use these 3 tips to prep your workshop then you will definitely get more library staff to actually use what they learn in their work; and to do so willingly.

Shift your mindset from content to learners

9 times out of 10 a team leader or colleague will begin a conversation with you by saying ‘I need you to run a staff workshop on ...’ or ‘Can you to teach staff how to ...’.

Conversations like this are focussed on running a workshop to deliver information - perhaps a new database, a new tool, or an improved process. As a result it is easy to get carried away thinking about the content needed to deliver that information. 

When instead it is more effective to think about your learners - the library staff themselves.

Let me explain.

When you start preparing your workshop based on the content you need to cover, the list is never-ending. 

And you end up cramming as many items from that list as you can into the time available.

But when you overload your workshop with content, two things happen:

  • 1
    Conversations create ripples. When you share what you learn with your colleagues, you will find your colleagues are more likely to share what they know with you.
  • 2
    Staff will struggle to differentiate between essential content and stuff that can come later. And because they will never have the luxury of time to use all of the workshop content in their work; they won’t use any. Or even worse, they will pick and choose what to implement based on some random priority list they make up. And then they will blame you when it doesn’t produce the expected outcome.

Neither of these two things will result in library staff actually using what they learn to achieve digital literacy success.

And neither will they make your awesome librarian heart sing.

Strip back content to ONE THING

Your preparation is vastly different however when you focus on how to deliver information to learners.

Learners are much more likely to succeed when you base your whole workshop on just ONE THING.

I can hear you muttering, ‘I can’t do that. It’s impossible!'

I know from experience that it is entirely possible.

"It’s impossible” is only valid if you accept it is. 

When the workshop covers only ONE THING, staff know what is important. And they also know what steps are essential, because the workshop only covers the essentials; and nothing else.

The difficult part however, as I’m sure you've already realised is deciding which ONE THING your workshop will cover.

I mean you already have a whole list of things to choose from, so how do you decide the one?

Well, whenever I prep for a workshop I ask myself 4 questions.These questions help me to decide the ONE THING to cover and the workshop content needed to lead to digital literacy success.

  • 1
    What is ONE THING learners will be able to do that they couldn’t do before attending the workshop?
  • 2
    How will that ONE THING benefit them?
  • 3
    How can learners demonstrate in the workshop that they can do this ONE THING?
  • 4
    What content is essential for learners to be able to demonstrate this ONE THING in the workshop?

So now that you know what information will benefit learners, the next tip is to make sure you can cover it properly in the time available.

Learners are much more likely to succeed when you base your workshop on ONE THING. #TheLibraryBoss

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Spend less time teaching

Oh, if only you had the luxury of choosing how long your workshop could be!

Unfortunately the chances of that happening are about as likely as the chances of reaching inbox zero - a rare occasion indeed.

Making the most of the workshop time you have is crucial. But that doesn’t mean that you should fill it to the brim with teaching content.

My general rule of thumb is that only 20% of the time available should be spent teaching content. The remaining 80% is spent on exercises to demonstrate learning, and reflection - to prepare library staff to adjust their workplace practices and habits.

So for example when I prepare a 60 minute workshop, over the course of the workshop I would:

  • Spend 12 minutes teaching the ONE THING.
  • Spend 40 minutes on exercises to demonstrate and reflect on the ONE THING.
  • Allow 8 minutes for administrative matters, unplanned discussions, questions, tech fails and delays.

Perhaps about now, you are having a slight panic attack about only having 12 minutes to teach concepts, content etc. I get that. Because I panic every time I prepare a workshop too (yes, every time).

Then I remember, the workshop isn’t about content, it’s about the learners actually using what they learn in their daily work.

I also remember that most Youtube videos teach a significant amount of content in less than 3 minutes. And you can too if you take care to structure the time available.

Making the most of the workshop time you have is crucial. But that doesn’t mean that you should fill it to the brim with teaching content. #TheLibraryBoss

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Spell out your expectations

The last tip is to clearly communicate why and how you expect library staff to achieve digital literacy success.

It is common for many workshops to have learning objectives. Learning objectives are 4 or 5 bullet points that describe what the learner will learn when they attend the workshop. Learning objectives give library staff an indication of the content the workshop will cover.

Expectations are different.

Expectations are clearly communicated ground rules - I will do this and behave in this way. In return I expect you to do this and behave in this way. Expectations clearly communicate behaviours, habits or practices that will encourage learning transfer to occur. 

When you clearly and repeatedly communicate your expectations in promotional material, acceptance emails and in the workshop itself, you are explicitly stating:

  • 1
    The ONE THING library staff will be able to do differently
  • 2
    How that ONE THING will benefit them
  • 3
    How you will teach them the ONE THING 
  • 4
    And how in return, you expect their work practice to change in these specific ways.

Don’t make the assumption that library staff will know what is expected of them. Because unfortunately many staff don’t actually think about what happens during or after a workshop. This is because they are used to being taken step-by-step through the workshop content; and then return to their usual work duties.

If you want your workshop to change library staff behaviours and practices, it is vital that you explicitly communicate your expectations.

Clearly communicate behaviours, habits or practices that will encourage learning transfer to occur. #TheLibraryBoss

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Like you, there are many awesome librarians who devote a lot of time and effort to provide regular learning opportunities for their colleagues only to have all that good work go to waste when the learning is not transferred to everyday practices. 

Learning transfer is difficult to achieve1 but these workshop tips will make a difference.

  • 1
    Prioritise learners over content. 
  • 2
    Spend at least 66% of the workshop giving learners the time and opportunity to adjust their daily practice.  
  • 3
    Make it clear how you expect existing habits to change as a result of the workshop.

What tips do you have for achieving digital literacy success in workshops? Tell me about them in the comment section below.

Spark Notes

  • Havva says:

    I find letting learners know about ‘why’ this thing is important to learn, helps absorb the new thing better.

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