The Digital Divide

13 May

Although we are miles and miles away from home, it rarely seems that way, thanks to email and Skype and Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I’m probably more in touch with my family and friends now than I was when I lived 100 miles away from them!

I know I would miss loved ones terribly if it wasn’t for the Internet. And it’s that thought which has been a great motivator for my weekly computer class. You may recall in an earlier post that, through my volunteering with the Senior Islanders’ Centre, I’ve begun voluntarily teaching a lady how to use the computer. She’d been to a class at a local college before, and hadn’t enjoyed it. In our first lesson she said that if it didn’t work out this time around, she was going to give up. With all of her children and grandchildren in Ireland, I couldn’t let that happen!

In our first lesson I spent a long time finding out what she wanted to learn, what she was most confused about, and what she’d like to use a computer for. Her biggest anxiety was how to switch a computer on and off. So that’s what we practised for the rest of the hour.

We’ve now had six classes, and she knows how to open Internet Explorer, Google something, move the web page up and down, close a window, type capital letters, use the tab key, and shut the computer down. In our first lesson she said that if her children ever got an email from her, they would think it was coming from Heaven. Now she has her own email account, and has written and replied to 5 messages. This isn’t a testament to my teaching skills – she is a star pupil. She has no computer at home to practise on, so each week she has to delve into her memories from our lesson the week before. She amazes me each time.

I’ve realised how younger generations take so much for granted in growing up or working with computers. Next time you Google something, imagine you have to follow step by step instructions of everything you are doing. All of a sudden, something that usually takes seconds, takes much longer. Sometimes in our lessons, we have to spend a few minutes just getting the mouse in the right place to turn it into the “pointed finger” icon.

There’s also a whole new discourse which means nothing outside of the world of technology. How do you explain in real world terms that the computer is “frozen”? Where else do you “sign out” other than online? It’s taught me that storytelling is relevant to teaching technology too. When we sign out in our lesson we are closing the front door of our house, because we don’t want people to have access to our emails, in the same way that we don’t want people to be poking around our house when we’re not there.

I am at my most patient in our hour together, but I enjoy every minute. It truly is a privilege to help make someone’s life a wee bit better.

A plea: If you know of any programmes specifically for seniors, teaching tools, or general tricks or tips to make using a computer easier please let me know your recommendations. Any help would be very much appreciated!


5 Responses to “The Digital Divide”

  1. Eric Bruce 13 May, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Good for you. You are making such a difference in this person’s life as well as her loved ones.

    Oh & excellent analogies too.

    Both Windows & Mac OS have settings that make using a computer easier for seniors. If you haven’t already, I would learn those & either adjust settings yourself or teach a senior how to do so if their is vision/hearing issues. Also, extremely important is to make sure they have extremely tight security via firewall, anti-phishing & anti-virus tools. Zone Alarm has an excellent suite that is relatively low cost. They also offer a free solution.

    • suscatty 13 May, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

      Hi Eric

      Thanks so much for those tips – that’s all really helpful. And excellent point about the security tools – I don’t want my student to be signing her life away! Appreciate you taking the time to write 🙂

  2. Hugga Mumma 13 May, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Hi Suzanne
    I work in a school and we have run a club in the past called ‘Silver Surfers’. I have e.mailed the teacher and asked if she can help with your Lady.
    Best wishes
    Lucy’s Mum

    • suscatty 13 May, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

      Hi Sally

      Thank you very much for contacting your teaching colleague – that’s really kind of you. That’s great too that your school has run a Silver Surfers Club – I think computers can seem quite daunting to those who haven’t grown up with them, so I’m sure the club made a big difference to its members! 🙂

  3. sally 13 May, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Hi again
    I have spoken to the teacher at school and she said if you Google ‘mouse moving exercises’ you can find some useful/fun stuff for your senior to practice.

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