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Laura Glascoff teaching a class.

Library provides free classes to help people with technology skills

Laura Jane Glascoff

By BECKY GILLETTE

There are few jobs today that don’t require some type of computer and cell phone skills.

“We’re living in a time where if you don’t have access to technology, you are left behind,” said Laura Jane Glascoff, technology education officer, Jackson-Hinds Library System. “Computers, cell phones and tablets are part of everyday life. But those don’t come with a user manual for everyone.”

Glascoff said it is important for most careers to keep up with the technology. You need to have the interest and desire to stay current. Knowing you have the capability of interacting with technology can make the job much easier and more efficient. She said the classes give everyone an opportunity to use these tools that are critical to being able to function in society today and be successful.

While some people can learn on their own, often face-to-face instruction is more helpful.

“I could have read a book on algebra, but I like to believe sitting in class and having it explained was much more helpful,” she said. “It is the same with technology.”

Glascoff teaches free classes in three different technology categories. The first category is basic skills in how to use a computer, functions such as filling out a form online or how to search for information online. In the intermediate computer skills class, students learn how to upload and download information, organize files and take full advantage of the capacity of a computer. She also teaches computer keyboarding, typing on the computer to improve accuracy and speed.

The second category is Office software such as Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint. Those can be valuable in both the personal and professional lives of students.

“These skills are valuable to get an office job or to advance in an office job,” Glascoff said. “You have to sort of pause and almost treat the Excel spreadsheet program like it is a different language. With a little push, you can start speaking that language.  Using spreadsheets does have a logic to it. It is just not a logic that comes naturally. Once you figure it out and start thinking like a spreadsheet, it is pretty fabulous. With a spreadsheet, you are breaking everything into smaller bits of information.”

Glascoff said spreadsheets will do a lot of the heavy lifting, particularly if you have a large amount of information. One of the things she tries to focus on when someone is the creator of the spreadsheet is taking the time to set it up right.

“The next days and weeks and months, you plug the information in and it will just chug right along with you,” she said. “Excel has around for 30 years. But a lot of people never learned how to start at the beginning. Or when we started at the beginning, it was just a lot of self-taught situations. There is nothing wrong with that. I was self-taught until I took a class. After taking the class, I realized I could have done this so much faster, prettier and more effectively. Getting things set up well in a spreadsheet improves accuracy and reduces opportunities for mistakes. In the professional world and even the personal world, mistakes cost you money and time. By creating a solid spreadsheet, you reduce the amount of time mistakes can cost you.”

It is also important to know enough to see when something has gone wrong with a spreadsheet.

“There is no shame in taking your hands off the keys, taking a deep breath, and doing it again,” Glascoff said. “It appears particularly to people over 50 that young folks get everything done so quickly. It is an illusion. The young people are just making good guesses. If it doesn’t work, they try something else. When it is more difficult for new people to do it quickly, they think they are doing it wrong. That isn’t the case at all. It is just a matter of confidence. With confidence, you can make a mistake and have the ability to undo it and make it right.”

PowerPoint is a more creative tool because it is visual. She said when someone is giving a presentation, there are three main things: the person doing the talking, the visual aids, and the content of what is being presented. Sometimes that third one gets completely forgotten. You want words, pictures and video on the screen to match the words coming out of your mouth. The words alone aren’t going to help your presentation. You need good visuals, too.

Word is the most commonly used word processing software. Her classes give students tools to get the full use out of Word to make their documents better.

“We work with formatting, spacing, and adding shapes, objects and text boxes to enhance a document,” she said. “I show them a lot of the keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process and how to insert Greek characters or the degree sign when trying to show what the temperature is.”

One tool that students often appreciate is “find and replace.” That can save a lot of time.

The third category of technology classes is learning how to use cell phones.  She teaches people how to get pictures off their cell phone, save them somewhere else and get them printed. She also shows people how to install and uninstall apps, which can make your battery last longer.

She can also help people using the computers at the libraries. For example, at one of their branches, ancestrylibrary.com is available.

Glascoff also teaches other special topics as needed and is available to all 14 of the library branches. If there is a special topic people would like presented, she packs up her laptop and heads out to teach it.

“We’ve done classes on data safety and Facebook,” she said. “Sometimes between classes I help people who might need to know how to use a smart phone that was just given to them. I hope that people know the library is a resource for them in those situations. We’re here to help. Although we have great books, we are more than just books.”

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