Key Volunteer Training

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Key Volunteers must complete a training session before teaching New Volunteers stations at Free Geek.


  • Complete training
  • Create wiki account
  • Add to Volunteer Coordination email list
  • Notify of next Volunteer Coordination meeting


Overview of Position

Why do we need you?

Free Geek is constantly growing! Every week we have New Volunteers that need our support. Some are looking for a free computer, others are looking for new skills and something fun to do.

Most people we see don't have very much computer or hardware experience. Many are from marginalized communities and find computers and technology very intimidating and difficult to understand.

By training volunteers to provide extra support to new and fellow geeks we can make Free Geek extra awesome!

What will you do?


  • Train Volunteers at stations
  • Be available for troubleshooting questions
  • Liaison between the Volunteer Coordinator and volunteers when needed
  • Help improve volunteer stations and coordination at monthly meetings
  • Contribute to the Wiki surrounding volunteer tasks
  • Contribute to the building and improving of stations themselves

Key Volunteers meet monthly with the Volunteer Coordinator to discuss and improve volunteer stations and coordination at Free Geek.

Typically there will be two Key Volunteers scheduled in the Warehouse and one Key Volunteer scheduled in the Mezzanine on any given day.

Anti-Oppression Training

An overview of the power dynamics between those that teach and those that receive knowledge. An incorporation of this concept with discussion and information surrounding the barriers some face in accessing technology.

The purpose of this training is to prevent the perpetuation of systemic oppression against those most marginalized in our communities (ie: folks with disabilities, mental health issues, persons of colour, women, class differences, queer folks, literacy barriers etc)

What is Anti-Oppression?

Oppression is the use of power to disempower, marginalize, silence or otherwise subordinate one social group or category, often in order to further empower and/or privilege the oppressor. Social oppression may not require formally established organizational support to achieve its desired effect; it may be applied on a more informal, yet more focused, individual basis.

Anti-Oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its affects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities.

Basically there are certain groups in our society and communities that hold power over others based on their membership in those groups. For example, if you were to look at the demographics of the CEO's of any major corporation, city council, parliament etc. you would notice that most if not all of these positions of great power are populated by white (publicly straight) males. On the flip side, if you were to look at the demographics of janitorial staff or fast food workers you might notice that these positions are populated largely by persons of colour, specifically women of colour. When studying the statistics of those receiving social assistance or state aid you would also notice that the vast majority of those in our communities living in this poverty are folks with disabilities and the elderly.

Where is the power imbalance?

Can you think of the social differences between these groups? What types of jobs do they usually occupy? What power do they hold? Do they typically experience oppression-if so by whom?

Women | Men | Queer folks (gay/lesbian,transgendered etc) | Seniors | Folks with disabilities | Low income folks | Straight people | Adults | Children | Middle income families | High income folks | Folks with mental health issues | New immigrants | ESL folks | Christian folks | Islamic folks | People of colour | White folks | People of Indigenous ancestry | English speaking persons

  • Can you think of other examples? How do they play out?
  • What are some examples of things you can do to prevent accidentally assuming the role of an oppressor?

Personal Responsibility

Practicing anti-oppression work in real terms is not only confronting individual examples of bigotry, or confronting societal examples, it is also confronting ourselves and our own roles of power and oppression in our communities and the bigger picture.

Though you may be a person that would never think to ever say anything racist/sexist/classist etc., by not realizing the power that you hold, and how your actions affect other people you will inevitably fall into sustaining and contributing to a larger system of oppression.

Intersectionality of Oppressions

The theory of Intersectionality is that individually we are all oppressed while we are all oppressors. While you may be a person who is historically marginalized (a person of colour for example) you may also have a role and be a member of a group that is oppressive to others (while you are a person of colour, you may also be a man, an able bodied person, upper/middle class, straight etc). The idea is that no single oppression holds more weight than another but that we all have a role in combating oppression and unequal power dynamics.

So what can you do?

This first step is recognizing the ways in which you are oppressed and the ways in which you are an oppressor. Try to think of the ways in which your group oppresses others on a societal and individual level while honestly evaluating your own actions. When you are addressing a group member that your group has historically and systemically oppressed be conscious of questioning your words and actions.

  • Are you speaking with authority? Why? Do you deserve that authority?
  • Are you talking down to that person? Are you making them feel emotionally safe or belittled/uncomfortable?
  • Are you intimidating? How can you be less so?
  • Are you making assumptions about that person? What are they? Why?
  • Are they acting differently than you would in their shoes? Why could that be?

Internalized Oppression

Internalized oppression is the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. For example, sometimes members of marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes of themselves.

For example, internalized racism is when members of Group A believe that the stereotypes of Group A are true and may believe that they are less intelligent or academically inferior to other groups of people.

Any social group can internalize prejudice.

An awareness of the issue of internalized oppression is necessary when attempting to take the lead of an oppressed group, or simply understanding how oppression is deeply socialized into each of us.

Being aware of how many of us, by internalizing our own oppressions, may seek power in other forms and in fact stand as oppressors towards other groups. For example many women in high level business positions may be seen as 'bulldogs' because they are acting in a way that is not typical of their socialized role. These women may feel the need to overcompensate for the oppression they have internalized and actually become aggressive in ways that may oppress and intimidate other groups (ie. racism, ablism, classism). She may even subordinate her own gender by claiming that her strength and straight forward nature is sourced in masculinity, that she is strong because she is like a man, because women are inherently weak and inferior.

Why is this relevant for Free Geek?

Free Geek has over 800 volunteers in its database, many of which have volunteered to receive a free computer because they are unable to afford one. Some just because they're geeks to the core, and others because they are interested in learning more about computer technology and haven't had access to such resources previously.

It may be surprising to veteran geeks, but computers and technology can feel very intimidating to a lot of people. Like most high paying industries, the computer industry in North America is like a pyramid. The higher up on the pyramid you look, the denser concentration of white able bodied males you see.

Free Geek seeks to make technology more accessible to the larger community. By providing a space that is safe, inclusive and comfortable for everyone to learn we are meeting our goals. Understanding why and how computer technology can seem frightening & intimidating is important in your role as a teacher.

Barriers to accessing technology

There are multiple barriers preventing some folks from accessing technology.

To name a few:

Class: Computers are expensive! They are also most used in higher paying jobs and post secondary education.

Gender: Many jobs in our society are gendered. For example women are not often seen working at construction sites, while men aren't often seen waiting tables at diners. The computer industry is no different, women are often left out, as the industry is assumed to be for men.

Literacy: Folks with lower literacy who are ESL (English as a Second Language) or otherwise, miss out on improving these skills with computers. A whole world of communication moves on without them. Many of our stations at Free Geek are also literacy dependent.

Age: Some persons later in life have missed out on the computer technology revolution. As a result, many may feel intimidated by these complicated looking gizmos.

Ability: Some folks with physical or mental disabilities have multiple barriers to accessing technology. For one thing many of these folks are on income assistance and are unable to afford computers. Many also do need a little extra assistance or encouragement in learning these tools.

Race: Like all areas of western society race plays a part in defining the demographics of the computer industry.

Free Geek attempts to help make technology more accessible with our volunteer program & thrift store. However, as someone who in the past did not have access to computer resources you may feel uncomfortable and out of place in an environment with other folks who seem like experts. Not knowing basic terms or names of equipment may be a reminder of the fact that this is a world you were traditionally left out of. An environment that doesn't make the effort to make it OK to ask questions and not know things contributes to a feeling of inadequacy and inferiority. Free Geek should be a place that empowers people to use and access technology! Not a place that further alienates people unintentionally.

  • Can you think of other folks that might be especially intimidated by technology?
  • What are some things that can contribute to some geeks feeling alienated at Free Geek?
  • When someone is having trouble with a task they are doing, can you think of methods of helping that might disempower someone instead of empower them?


You are volunteering at Free Geek and notice a young woman having a little difficulty crushing hard drives. You want to help out, so you offer to take over her task and then do so.

  • What's wrong with this picture? What should you have done?

You see two volunteers in a conversation. One is trying to explain to the other how to dismantle a certain piece of hardware but is having a little difficulty because english is not his first language. You want to help, so you step in and teach the other volunteer instead.

  • What's wrong with this picture? What should you have done?

Power dynamics between those that hold and receive knowledge

As a key volunteer you will be responsible for teaching volunteers some of the stations as well as answering trouble shooting questions.

Anyone in a teaching role is naturally in a position of power over the person they are teaching. As an instructor it is imperative that you understand how your role as a teacher is situated in a larger societal context. Understanding how you are an oppressor and are oppressed and how the person you are teaching is also an oppressor that is oppressed assists you in becoming a teacher that empowers your student rather than disempowering their efforts to learn.

  • What are some ways that you think a teacher could intimidate or make someone feel insecure while learning?

Being positioned in a teaching role does not necessarily mean you are in a position of all assuming power, or that you are immune from experiencing oppression as well.

  • What are some ways a teacher can experience oppression?
  • What should you do if you feel you've experienced oppressive or discriminatory behaviour at Free Geek?
  • What will you do if you witness this sort of behaviour between others?

Teaching and Learning

An overview of different way people learn and absorb information and the 'Experiential Learning Cycle'. A discussion surrounding methods of teaching that are appropriate for different learning styles to help trainers and learners better relate to each other.

This session will include a brainstorming session on 'bad teaching' in comparison to the methods covered.

Different learning styles

Many people understand/learn information in their own unique ways:

Audio –need to hear it, lectures, speeches, forums etc

Visual –need to see it, charts, maps, heavy use of black/white board etc

Kinaesthetic –need to experience it, learn through doing, situation simulations etc.

When a teaching is conducted in a way that is difficult for you to learn you may disengage all together, if:

Audio –doesn't work for you, you may not absorb any information at all no matter how interesting it is to you, you may finish a 3 hour lecture/forum and be unable to explain what you just learned

Visual –doesn't work for you, you may find visual information distracting, and difficult to understand, it might not seem relevant to the task at hand and may frustrate you

Kinaesthetic –doesn't work for you, you may feel disempowered or alienated if you are unable to 'learn through doing', you may feel less intelligent if you can't just jump in & instead need a thorough diagram or lecture to understand

Clearly you can't please everyone all the time, but you can make your instruction more accessible to differences in learning by rotating between all of the methods.

  • Can you think of how you learn best?
  • Do you have any suggestions about how Free Geek can make learning more accessible to different people?

Barriers to learning

We've walked through Anti-Oppression work and the barriers some folks experience in accessing technology, now let's go over some of the more tangible barriers to learning.


English: Not everyone speaks English as their first language. If you speak too quickly or rely on audio based teaching some folks may not be able to keep up. Speaking slowly and clearly, while relying more on visual and kinesthetic teaching methods may be more productive. Don't assume someone understand, ask them to show you what they were asked to do.

Literacy: Not everyone is able to read and write at the same level. Don't rely on written instruction boards for teaching or giving a new volunteer a task that is literacy dependent if you are unsure of their reading ability.

Geek speak: Not everyone is up to speed on the latest jargon or names for equipment. Ask someone to tell you what they know before assuming. Some people may not speak up if they don't know exactly what you're talking about, always explain the terms you use.


Be conscious of a persons physical needs and abilities before directing them to a task that may not be suited to them (heavy lifting, constant standing etc). Some folks also experience disabilities that are not immediately noticible.

Sight: Always make sure magnifying glasses are available at stations and please don't assume that someone is able to do the task at hand. Ask them if they would prefer something else to do if they appear to have difficulty when teaching you back the information.

Hearing: Try to always speak clearly and loudly when teaching a station, not everyone can hear you as well as you can hear them!

Speed: Some folks are quicker than others, don't assume folks can follow as easily as you can. Try to be patient with folks and understand that everyone learns in different ways and has different needs. Don't assume someone can't understand something right away, try different approaches and cater the information to what they are able to grasp.

  • What are some ways you can counter barriers to learning?
  • Can you think of other issues that might create barriers to learning?


You are instructing a volunteer to pre-dismantle a system. You tell her to take out the flatwire, hard-drive, RAM, optical drive and expansion cards, while pointing vaguely and hand her a screwdriver.

  • What's wrong with this picture? What should you have done?

The Experiential Learning Cycle

This is a great model of the steps that are taken in the learning process itself.


digraph g {

  pub [ label="Publishing (What?)" ]
  process [label="Processing (So what? for me)" ]
  gen [label="Generalizing (So what? for the group)" ]
  app [label="Applying (So now what?" ]
  pub -> process -> gen -> app -> pub

} </graphviz>

Think of the experiential learning cycle as a stage where you as the trainer/facilitator, along with the learners, are planting the seeds for learning.

  • In publishing you are doing the actual planting of seeds. It's the stage where learning begins, the activity takes place. Often this is where learning stops – time isn't given for the rest of the cycle. At Free Geek this is when you tell someone what they will be doing at a station.
  • In the processing stage you are learning to recognize the different trees that have sprouted. This stage is about the individual. This is when you turn instruction into a conversation. Ask the volunteer to: Tell me about what you just learned? Do you have questions about what you're doing?
  • Generalizing is seeing the forest for the trees, it's putting the learning into perspective, teasing out patterns. This stage moves from the individual to the group. Typical debriefing questions are: How does this activity assist the rest of Free Geek? Why is it important?
  • Applying is just that – applying the learning to the learner. Typical questions are: Teach what you just learned back to me? At this stage it is important to allow the volunteer to take the lead in the activity and show you what is done. You might also ask the volunteer: What would you like to learn more about?

It's important that volunteers know why what they are doing is important for Free Geek. If they have questions that you can't answer, record them and bring them to the Volunteer Coordinator.

  • Are there other teaching methods that you can think of?

Bad teaching brainstorming & examples

  • Have you experienced bad teaching? What was it like?
  • Based on what you just learned, what are some qualities of a bad teacher?

Teaching stations

Step 1) Who are you teaching? Do you need to keep certain issues in mind while instructing this person? Ask them what they know and what they most want from volunteering at Free Geek.

Step 2) Safety. Do they know where the safety equipment at Free Geek is? Do they know what to do if they get injured? Do they have gloves, safety goggles, a dust mask available? Does the task require heavy lifting or long period of standing, is that appropriate for this person?

Step 3) Show them what they are doing. Visually show them, tell them, and let them recreate what they just learned.

Step 4) Why? Tell them about the role of the task. Let them know why it is important for Free Geek.

Step 5) Their turn Ask them to instruct you on the task at hand, tell them to teach you as if you didn't know anything. Do they have any questions? Is there more they would like to learn?


After the training the Key Volunteers will be shadowed by the Volunteer Coordinator to offer guidance in their new role as well as to evaluate whether they are in need of further training before taking on the role of Key Volunteer.

At this stage we will do a simulation where the Key Volunteer trains the Volunteer Coordinator at Eval & Dismantling. The Key Volunteer will also offer trouble-shooting assistance when the Volunteer Coordinator has difficulty with the task or doesn't understand the instruction.