Back in March, Anna Kraynak facilitated a learning circle showing learners how to use the Abington Free Library’s digital resources. Her learning circle participants shared enthusiastic feedback, and we’re thrilled to share Anna’s insights from her learning circle with you in the interview below.
We’ve invited Anna to be a featured guest at our next monthly facilitator call on Wednesday, July 6th to discuss digital literacy, and we’ll add thoughts from our group discussion to our digital literacy topic guide. Read on to learn about what strategies Anna used in her learning circle!
Your learners seemed to really appreciate your general vibe. In their learner surveys, they used words like “patient, enthusiastic, kind, fun, engaging – the list goes on! What advice do you have for facilitators who want to be a supportive force for learners with limited digital access skills?
Model a growth mindset. Be supportive and give positive comments during the learning circle and all touchpoints. Show enthusiasm and passion about the topic and demonstrate the value of using digital collections/eResources and applying digital skills for everyday tasks like shopping, health and wellness, leisure reading, listening and watching movies, and connecting with others.
Reinforce and summarize concepts, and curate and present the best sources.
Make mistakes and move on. During one of our sessions, a live demo did not pan out. I acknowledged how this kind of hiccup happens to all users and shifted to a different way to demonstrate the sign-up flow. (Be humble as a co-learner.)
Show your own passion for learning. Create a safe place for all to ask questions and share real examples to use the new skill or give context for the need that an eResource can address – shopping for pillows, listening to audiobooks while exercising, watching a movie while on a flight, etc.
It’s really cool that you used your library’s e-resources as the “course materials” for this learning circle. One learner particularly appreciated that you had a clear outline for each session. How did you structure your content from week to week?
I started with P2PU’s online Facilitator Guide template and adapted it to suit my lesson planning and learning circle needs. Since this learning circle curriculum was custom-made by me, your template and methodology were a key time-saver.
Note from P2PU: Check out the facilitator guide that Anna created, which includes final learning summaries that the participants received based on Anna’s notes and curriculum planning! You can learn more about facilitator guides in our Knowledge Base, and you can get advice from other facilitators on how to make facilitator guides at our community call on June 15th.
Carve out weekly time and space for peers to give tips or share details during our check-in before new learning material is introduced. I was inspired by the effective visuals and format after being on your P2PU facilitator calls, and starting at week two or so, I adapted P2PU’s paradigm of sharing celebrations, challenges, and questions as part of our weekly debrief.
Encourage practice or hands-on time. Our learning circle format was lecture/discussion with practice being offline, and I was available virtually or in-person to clarify or dive deeper. Being adaptable and available for 1:1 help on varied channels/modes was key for those who need additional support and scaffolding. Examples:
- Face-to-face with retiree: A patron came in with her iPhone and older iPad to troubleshoot her issues downloading the hoopla app. This 1:1 was very effective, and it streamlined her understanding of what the problem was and finding the best remedy.
- Email with working mid-lifer: Another patron emailed me about the best way to search for an audiobook narrator in selecting a digital title. I gave her screenshots and text-based how-tos, which worked for her.
I plan to tweak future formats to shorten the learning circle to an hour of total group time and offer dedicated office hours. It would be most effective to offer in-person, 1:1 help.
At our facilitator call in April, you shared some of your strategies for getting active, engaged learner participation. Which activities did you find most effective?
For our first session, a key icebreaker was to share a memory based on this prompt: “Describe a happy time at a library from your childhood.” Those who did not have these childhood experiences told stories from other points in their lives.
In the facilitator call, Dirk mentioned that getting engagement from everyone at the beginning of a session was strategic to seed connection and feel comfortable sharing with others. He was right! I led by sharing my passion for learning digital literacy and my own journey as a non-digital native, first-generationer.
How did you decide when to step back and let participants take the lead in their learning?
There was a mix of intentional and ad-hoc stepping back to address a tech need that helped the participants interact directly with one another, without my voice. It was like seeing your adult child figure out key, milestone life issues, like finding a job without your help. What a joy to see the flight of our learners to self-reliance as digital users.
What learning outcomes are you proudest of?
One participant was inspired to apply for a position at one of the digital content partners they learned about. Another discovered that she loved combining wellness walks with audiobooks that she had downloaded on her iPad. A third joined a session even while traveling and had downloaded a movie on her iPad after learning how to do so in the learning circle. A fourth figured out how to stream Kanopy films on her Apple TV and raved about its film collections. A fifth figured out how to get her Zoom video on without any help, and by the last two sessions, she had downloaded hoopla and audiobooks on her smartphone for the first time ever.
What’s next for you with learning circles?
I’m delighted to find this community, methodology, and software, to try a new initiative and role for digital literacy among seniors, and to transform beginner users into new eResources ambassadors who share what they learned with others.
I met up with one participant at a Senior Fair, and digital skills classes came up as the next area of interest for her. Another participant came to our in-person poetry event and shared that she is beginning a habit of devoting 30 minutes per week to tech learning after our LinkedIn session. She encouraged us to do outreach to senior centers like where her dad resides that could benefit from digital access to audiobooks.
Doing the learning circle inspired me to encourage our director to apply for a Google/AARP grant that will bring digital skills training to our community as well. So the work continues!
We’re so grateful that Anna took the time to share her experiences with us! Join our discussion with her on digital literacy at our July 6th facilitator call (RSVP). We host facilitator calls on the first Wednesday of every month to give facilitators a space to ask questions and get support. Hope to see you there!
Have any thoughts or feedback? We’d love to hear from you – drop us a line at email@example.com!