People first, technology second.

Lauren Glenn Davitian taught me about facilitation and developing a helpful manner around technology. She recently received a lifetime achievement award from the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the way I talk about technology or work with people on technology it’s really because of things I learned from Lauren Glenn.

Shortly after I finished taking college classes I ended up in one of her programs helping to facilitate technology learning for under-employed people in southern Vermont. Some of the things I learned I use nearly every time I talk about technology with someone.

Avoid taking control of the computer or device, let the person who is learning struggle through using the mouse and clicking their own way. Give simple guidance but don’t call it simple or assume that something is easy just because I think it’s easy. Give people the time and space to explore problems that are important to them without judgement.

I remember one time helping a guy a few years older than I was who maybe couldn’t read all that well. He wasn’t all that comfortable in the computer lab we were using but he was there, I think his girlfriend was the one who made him go. He was emphatic about not being able to type or wanting to learn about it. We talked for a bit and eventually I learned that he was into fixing old cars. I know nothing about cars but I did know that he might be able to learn about them or find parts for them online.

Sure enough, by the end of our session he was excited to be combing through manuals for cars he wanted to fix. He learned where to look online for car parts as well. He struggled a bit with the reading but he was putting all of his effort into it because he knew this was going to be something he enjoyed and something useful to him.

That was transformative for me. I certainly don’t remember to maintain this level of patience all the time. But often I do. And Lauren Glenn is pretty much the role model example of patience, acceptance and learning.

Here’s a video full of fun and interesting Vermont characters talking about Lauren Glenn Davitian.

It’s also fun to see that she’s always had that awesome hair.

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