Shedding Technology Trepidation

Brush up at some free computer classes at the Providence Public Library.


Do Excel spreadsheets make you tense? We may have a solution.

Shane Sher is a self-professed computer geek who spends much of his time helping people not to fear technology so much.

During the nearly eight years he’s worked as a computer training specialist for Providence Public Library, Sher has taught more than 11,500 students things like the fine points of adding a column in Excel and how to sell their stuff on eBay.

The library’s free computer classes have attracted people from a range of backgrounds: people living in shelters, looking to develop more job skills; people at the tip-top of their professions looking to brush up; moms looking to make some money on the side, Sher says. His youngest student was ten; the oldest, ninety-nine.

“Everyone comes in and says pretty much the same thing:  ‘I’m computer illiterate,’" Sher says. But some people’s definition of illiterate is that they only write emails and use Facebook, while others literally may never have sat down in front of a computer.

“My first job is to get the person to relax with computers, because once you get the person to relax, you can teach them anything,” Sher says.

He remembers one student was so intimidated by technology that she couldn’t use the electronic keypad outside her apartment building and would wait for another resident to go inside. The woman took several classes with him (“her intention was to become part of the current civilization”), and now he sees her in the library’s computer lab, working on her own.

“That’s my goal, that eventually they go far beyond me,” Sher says.

If the people who attend Sher’s classes have one complaint, it’s that they leave hungry.

Over the years, Sher has come to recognize when students get nervous and tense up if they don’t understand something. So he starts talking about food. “Anything to distract them from being worried about the subject matter,” Sher says. 

Check out the schedule for upcoming classes and handouts here.



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