Mentor Training

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Volunteers that have completed most of the stations at Free Geek must complete Mentor training before repeating stations.


  • Complete training
  • 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 providing extra support to new and fellow geeks we can make Free Geek extra awesome!

What will you do?

Mentors really don't have to do too much, just provide a little bit of support to new geeks when or if they need it. The theory is that its nice to learn something new next to someone whose done what you're doing.

As a mentor you will be scheduled next to a New Volunteer during your volunteer shifts. There is no required task for you to complete, you're simply there to offer a little help when asked by the New Volunteer.

If there is a question you can't answer, locate a Key Volunteer for further help.

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?

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.

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.

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.

So what can you do?

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?

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?

Teaching and learning

A discussion surrounding methods of teaching that are appropriate for different learning styles to help trainers and learners better relate to each other.

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?

Bad teaching examples & brainstorming

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


After the training Mentors will be shadowed by the Volunteer Coordinator to offer guidance in their new role.

At this stage we will do a simulation where the new Mentor will offer trouble-shooting assistance to the Volunteer Coordinator.