June 10th, 2008 | Published in Google Open Source
On June 5, 2008, a new model of technology training was tried out. It was inspired by the "unconference" and "camp" models of technology conferences, and we called it an "untraining." It was designed to be created by the participants, where they would work together to learn what they needed to know.
The software was OpenOffice.org and the setting was Central Park, in Google's NYC offices. It was organized by the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative and sponsored by Google's Open Source Programs Office. Many thanks also to our friends at Aspiration for their generous in-kind support of the event. The participants were mostly a mix of librarians and non-profit folks.
The day was, in the view of the participants, a qualified success. They learned a lot about OpenOffice.org, got just about all of their questions answered, and forged new alliances in the process. There were a few tweaks that the participants suggested at the end of the day, which they felt would make the model more useful; they suggested that the structure of the day worked well, with three sessions completely defined by the participants. They also suggested an addition of a set of concrete tasks that were sent ahead of time, where people could choose the tasks more connected to their own set of uses for OpenOffice.org, then one or more of the groups could use those tasks as organizing principles.
There was a short OpenOffice.org and Open Source 101 class at the beginning of the day to orient everyone. Also, many notes were taken during the event, so if you would be interested in organizing an Open Source untraining, check the wiki for inspiration.
We were really happy to get to try this model out, and happy that Google helped us to get more people up to speed in using the great open source tool, OpenOffice.org. Plus, we learned a lot about a good training model for applications of this sort, and we hope to use this model again in the near future.