Are you the Know-it-All or the Keener?

Four types of learners in a computer class

In my decades of teaching adults how to use the computer and technology, I have encountered a number of different types of ‘self-proclaimed’ learner identities.

  1. I know everything (but why don’t you try and show me something).
  2. I feel like I know nothing (I don’t know if I can learn).
  3. I don’t want to know (I’m fine with what I have / know).
  4. I’m ready to know more (I’m open to the possibilities).

Maybe you’ve encountered these same identities in your office or home.

Let’s look at the Learner Identities together and learn how to work positively towards providing value to each learning style.

Let’s start with the student that knows it all! We know that’s not the case, but I love these students because they truly WANT to know it all and will eat up the added knowledge like it’s a chocolate fudge sundae!

1. The Know-it-All aka I’ve Got This! 

This person is thinking… What are you going to teach me?

This person is confident with the tech, which is great.  BUT, are they open to learning more?

Do they realize as tech changes that they’ll need to be open to adapting to updates and new methods?

“What are YOU going to teach me?”


As an instructor, if someone says they know everything, I say, “That’s great!” 

Then I might follow with, “What do you like best about this tech and since you’re here, what are you hoping to gain by being in this class/training session today?” 

I might even add “You might be a little bored today, we cover a lot of basics you probably already know.”

It’s advantageous to get the Know-it-All’s thinking and get them on your side.  They attended for a reason.  For them they might learn something new that will take them further (make them faster, more efficient).  If their work colleagues are also attending, the advantage of them being there is that they will know what is taught and can assist after the training. 

State Your Expectations Clearly

Knowing what to expect from the training session can help steer everything and everyone in the right direction.

Make sure you have a solid agenda and a timeline. 

The person that knows everything might want to use time to show ‘how much they know’.  

So by stating your timelines and agendas ahead of time, you can keep these extra comments to a minimum and ensure that they add value.

Accept the challenge.

You may even ask, “Does anyone really know everything? I don’t think so.”

This can be a great way to find out what tip or trick even the most experienced user does not know yet.  Share extra tips or tricks during the training and you may find one that this person hasn’t discovered yet.

Teacher’s aid

Make them feel important and ask for their help in assisting others or maybe even explaining a concept (be very careful here as this could sidetrack everything, do this only in small amounts and build up the expectations here).  I do this often in my classes.  When we help others, we learn more.  Remember to give them CLEAR ground rules. They are not allowed to do it for them, they have to actually teach and then let the student do the doing.

2. The “I Know Nothing” Knower

Say that ten times fast ha ha!

This is a pretty big claim… To Know nothing.  Chances are they know something, so we just need to build on that.

This person is open to learning, but not necessarily confident.

“I know nothing…”


When someone tells me they know nothing I will usually respond with “I’m sure you know something, we will build on that.” 

Also, we’ll add in the fact that they will have no bad habits when they start from scratch and learn the right ways of approaching that technology.

Build Confidence

As they are learning, be sure to praise them for all that they are doing (and learning), so that we can build their confidence while we reinforce the idea that they do hold knowledge and that has a lot of value.

Get them to give you examples of what they have learned.

Keep Going!

Encourage them to keep moving forward.  They stepped into your learning environment thinking they knew nothing, but they will walk out feeling well equipped and empowered!

3. The Intentional No-Knower

They feel fine with what they know. And they do not want to know more.

These students tend to stay in their comfort zone.

Working with someone that doesn’t want to learn the technology (but has been sent to training by their boss) is a tough one to win over. 

Often, they are not open to or don’t see the value in the learning.

“I’m good, don’t show me (anything new).”

This person has been sent to training because the technology in their workplace has changed or been updated.  

They want to do the minimum amount to get the job done. 

Some even resent the change.

Working with someone that does not want to learn is probably a normal occurrence for a teacher in elementary or high school. In those environments there are grades as motivation and factors for discipline.  As adults in a one day technology class, there aren’t these same options.

Affirm and Address the Fear

Fear of the unknown or of failure are definitely prevalent when change is around.  As educators, we must address this, talk about the path forward and the possible pitfalls along the way.  If we can share stories and use ourselves as examples, all the better. Sharing the vision for the new tech and the positive outcomes from learning it, both motivate the student to learn and insures clarity on what to expect.


Ask for examples of how they have achieved certain results in the past and compare how they can do it in the future.  Make it useful and relevant.

Ask for what hasn’t worked in the past with the tech (or tech version) they used and compare the new tech. 

What can we achieve by learning these new skills?

Make it fun

What’s the motivation for learning this new tech?  Why can’t I just do things the way they have always been done? Create a game out of it.  Have people work in groups, ask them for examples of things that can be changed or replaced by this technology – give points for the best examples.  

Create the mental visual for the positive atmosphere these changes will make and no one will want to miss out!

Elicit help

If you can’t seem to reach or get thru to the person that does not want to know, get help.  Ask others to coach that person.  Ask others for their advice on what will be motivating to that person, get their insight.

Give them responsibility

Is there something they can be responsible for, in that learning of the new technology?  If they have a greater stake in it and more responsibility they will have to be more involved.

4. The Heck Yes! I’m READY TO LEARN!

My favorite person in a class, the keener!  They can’t wait to learn new stuff and they are very positive and open about it.

Crown them the Champion

“I love this, show me more…”

As you explain different concepts or features, call on them to give relevant examples.  Once they understand what is possible, have them relate it to their work environment.  This will help create more meaning for everyone else.

Real life examples are key!

Make them the Coach

As you watch these students blossom, enlist them right away to help coach others.  

As they learn concepts and grow in their excitement…  they can spread this knowledge and enthusiasm to others.

Not everyone learns the same way or has the same interest in learning and this can change, often.

If you are someone who has to coach or help someone don’t get discouraged, just take it as a learning experience for yourself.