The World of Teaching Tablets
For many months, I thought things were on a fairly even keel in the world of e-books and e-readers. OverDrive regained access to both Hachette and Penguin publishers, and the demand for e-reader helped died down. Our E-Reader Users’ Group had dissolved a long time ago, due to lack of interest. Statistics hummed along, gaining at a steady pace each month. Sometime around October, patrons began to ask if we were going to do a program on which tablet they should buy for Christmas. Even though I didn’t really believe it was going to be in great demand, I agreed to put together a program comparing the current offerings for our patrons. This program, while it didn’t draw the huge audience I’d had in past years, surprised me by how popular it was. It was then I decided to start offering classes in the use of several different kinds of tablet devices.
I based my choice of tablet classes on my monthly statistics from Google Analytics. For as long as I’ve been following my mobile stats, devices featuring the IOS have come in at the top. IPad is always #1, followed by iPhone and the iPod. It was a no-brainer that my community liked the iPad! Looking further down the Analytics list, the Kindle Fire (all models combined) was the next most popular. The Google Nexus and Samsung Tab were represented, but in double digit figures for usage. I scheduled my first class for the iPad, but was not present when the sign-up sheet was released. (It was over Christmas vacation and I had taken time off.) By the time I returned to work on December 29th, I had over 50 people signed up for my program. Knowing that I already had more folks that I preferred in a technology class, I immediately cut off registrations and offered an additional three classes a bit later in the month of January. This time, I wisely limited sign-ups to a maximum of fifteen per session. The night of the first program, we had record cold temperatures and lots of snow. I expected no more than a handful to show up. Boy, was I wrong! Seventy hardy souls braved the bitter weather conditions and attended this program. My presentation was composed of a PowerPoint Slide Show with lots and lots of screen shots, followed by a long Q & A session. My second class in January was devoted to Kindle Fires of all sizes and configurations. Several attendees showed up with the Kindle Paper Whites or Touch’s – so much for reading the program description! The last class was the hardest – Androids. I chose clumping all Android devices together since I didn’t really know how many patrons had Samsung Tabs vs. Samsung Notes vs. some other flavor of Android. We own a Google Nexus, Samsung Tab and a Samsung Note 8 at the Library. I took screenshots from all three for this class.
Here are some of my observations based on 5 iPad classes; 1 Kindle Fire class; and 1 Android class: The skill level of patrons in all of these classes varied wildly. By the time I was doing my second iPad class, I didn’t even take for granted that folks knew how to turn on their tablets. I’d guess over half of each class that I taught had never fully powered down their tablets. Most assumed that making the screen go dark was turning it off. I was amazed that no one had heard about putting a device to sleep or on power-save vs. powered it totally off. I knew that I’d lose a certain percentage of the novices at some point in the programs, but others in the class became bored with the very basic information I was giving. My only solution has been to offer “drop-in” tutoring on Saturdays over the next few months and to encourage those who are truly technologically challenged to attend these sessions. So far we’ve had one of these tutoring days and six patrons stopped by. One had a very old Pandigital tablet; one had an Adroid tablet called a Nextbook; two had iPads and the other two had Kindle Fires. They all walked away more comfortable with their devices.
I firmly believe that we must continue to offer classes on tablet since the demand is growing each month. Attendance at our traditional “computer basics” classes using a regular PC have dropped off drastically in the past year. As librarians we need to switch gears and embrace mobile technology. The challenge will be trying to learn each device on the market. We’ve already had patrons ask for a Surface class. I had to admit that no one on our staff owned one of these tablets and the Library couldn’t justify it in our budget. This is going to be an ongoing problem, but one we’ll have to face.