Writers in the IT Trainer Republic cover everything from when to pass out documentation, to how to manage training records, to how training brokers manage their business. We have lots of our own tips and ideas to pass on, but some of the best information we get comes from our readers. This sampling of reader mail is a collection of tips from readers about a variety of training topics, including classroom and management tips.

Internet resources
David F. offers this tip for training beginning Internet users:

“Make a ‘Resource’ folder in your Bookmarks file with useful sites such as a good multiple search engine, a map/travel directions site, a yellow/white pages phone listing (including reverse directory), a dictionary, thesaurus, acronym list, selected technical support sites, training sites such as LeapIT.com, etc. The instructor can supply a basic list and encourage students to add sites that support their unique needs.”

How to run your classroom
Diana M. conducts software and hardware training. Her tips cover everything from how to manage classroom sessions to how to handle “maintenance” training:

  • “Pair up people from different departments as ‘lab’ partners. This fosters cross training and also provides an opportunity to share skills and learn from each other. As we have limited equipment, halfway through the training session I say, ‘Switch,’ and partners switch seats. This allows each person to have an opportunity to use the mouse and keyboard.”
  • “Computer tips via computers: I post computer tips on our main system daily that users can print out. They are always basic enough to fit on one screen, and users are encouraged to print them off and store in a notebook or other useful place at their desks.”
  • “Present material multiple ways to attract different learning styles. I always present information verbally first, then show them on the screen, let them try it out on the computer, and then give them written materials to refer back to.
  • Training exercises: With each class I develop training exercises that are somewhat related to job functions that our organization performs. For example, in an Excel class we developed a spreadsheet that tracked truck runs and orders. Users were then able to see the benefits of using formulas, etc.
  • Fun: It’s always important to have fun. I make the classes fun with lots of jokes, funny exercises, etc., that keep people entertained (awake) and involved in the class.”

You can attract more flies with honey . . .
Alex N. reminds us that patience is always important, whether you’re in a support role or a teaching role:

“Whenever I find out about a problem with someone’s PC or laptop, I make sure to listen actively, trying to get the whole lowdown on what happened before and after the problem occurred. I refrain from being judgmental (don’t say, ‘Well, obviously, it’s something you did!’). This leads to more honest information about problems from the users. When you display the attitude that you want PCs and their users to keep functioning no matter what, you develop a much better user/help desk relationship.”

TechRepublic columnist Bruce Maples also has some ideas about how to keep your cool in the classroom.

Play a game to engage students
Gary M., owner of FreeHand Design of Sonoma Valley, CA, has been a computer user since 1977 and started his training work in 1994 with a Windows 3.11 class. He recommends using humor and games to introduce new students to computers. His story of a particularly stubborn student also shows the value of patience.

“One student, a woman in her late sixties and a retired WAC, was assigned to my class just a few days before her retirement. Boy, was she a salty old dog—military demeanor and all! She entered the class with an apparent and understandable resistance and attitude. ‘Damn company,’ she barked at me, ‘knows I’m retiring and don’t give a damn about friggin’ computer crap. What am I here for? I don’t like computers, I don’t need to learn any computer crap, I’m retiring!’

“I replied, ‘Well, it’s pretty clear to me what you don’t like. But tell me, what do you like to do?’ ‘She was taken aback and said (more gently), ‘Oh, me and my girlfriends like to go to Tahoe and Reno every month.’

“Looking at her clutching her handbag, I said, ‘Okay, Mae! I’m glad to see that you brought your purse; I hope there’s some money in it! I’m gonna save you the bus ticket costs, but I’m gonna win your money just like they do in the casinos.’

“With that I showed her to a PC that had several casino-like games installed (I bought the games, and it was one of my computers I brought in as well) and asked her what her favorite game was. Six hours later, as she was leaving the class smiling broadly, she told me, ‘You know, that wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be!’

“I saw her a couple of years postretirement—ran into her in a local supermarket. She was so excited and didn’t hesitate to tell me of the new Windows computer she bought for her home.”

Thanks to all our members for contributing to the TechRepublic community by sending in these tips.
This reader is looking for advice instead of offering it. Can you help?“I would be interested in getting feedback from anyone who has been using a presentation monitor—thanks!”If you have used a presentation monitor, send us an e-mail with your opinion of the product and a description of how it worked for you.