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Colleges, “digital natives” help elders learn new technologies


(TNS) technology became a necessity for Linda Brandon when she owned Linda’s Music in Decatur.

“In the mid to late 1990s we were like, ‘Okay, we have to do this, we have to get a computer’ and we built one,” said Brandon, who closed her store in 2020 and retired. “You couldn’t just go to Best Buy and buy one like you do today.”

She remembers how she and Hugh Reeves “were kind of lost”. But they found out through trial and error.

Today, educators often refer to students as “digital natives” because they have never known a world without computers, cell phones and iPads. Even a young child seems to instinctively know how to use them.

But people who grew up with rotary phones, not cable TV, and before computers were in every home and office, had to learn to use them, and some still feel uncomfortable. In a world where even ordering from a fast food restaurant requires the use of a kiosk and changes to your cable television offering require a visit to the company’s website, the discomfort with technology can really affect daily life.

“I’m interested in information literacy,” said Steven Ward, library director at Forsyth Public Library. He offers computer courses in the library for all ages.

“When I left library school, my library school was focused on teaching and reference,” he said. “My first two jobs were in academic libraries – Murray College and the University of Illinois at Springfield – and I was a teaching librarian. That has only helped spark the passion for the classroom and basically create lifelong learning opportunities and skills for people of all ages, especially seniors who might acquire skills later in life. “


Ward teaches the use of social media and email, as well as basic computer skills that are necessary today. Without these skills, tackling even simple tasks like paying bills or signing up for social security could be insurmountable. He’s new to the Forsyth library, and once he’s settled in, he says he’ll start writing lesson plans and offering computer classes.

“I teach information literacy to help people in all facets of life, academically, professionally, or even through learning about social media and email,” he said. “There are so many different ways to learn and grow. I’m just trying to help them acquire and learn skills that will make life easier in this digital world we live in. “

Teaching an adult computer course at Richland Community College, Julie O’Laughlin says seniors are often scared of technology, but practice and step-by-step instructions will help them overcome the hump.

From her experience, she said, “Some people jumped on board, others kicked and screamed, and others were so intimidated that they felt that by avoiding technology, they didn’t have to learn how to use it.

O’Laughlin said, “A person’s exposure to the computer before entering a class is one of the determining factors in determining what obstacles they will face during our time together. Information that is considered to be most helpful is opening multiple tabs, surfing the Internet, creating Word documents and files, and looking (and) showing family pictures. “

Brandon remembers ordering goods for her store by fax and when companies like Peavey began requiring merchants to order through their website. Over time, she has become familiar with technology and paying bills online, but she knows that not everyone is.

“Last year I learned to use my hot spot on my phone,” she said. “Now when I’m in a place that has no internet when my iPad doesn’t connect automatically, I’ll use my hotspot from my phone.”

Clinton High School junior Jake Kalmer realizes that technology is more natural for his age group than it is for his grandparents.

“I make tube videos and edit them on my phone with video software, and that is completely unknown to my grandparents,” said Jake. “I used to have to be able to teach my step-grandfather how to do things on his phone, just set up the phone, that’s a big deal. They don’t know how to do that and they need someone to show them. “


Jake uses his phone for so many things and is not afraid to try new things and “play” with them while they are less confident, he said. He can show them how to change settings in one app, but they don’t know how to use this skill in another app.

“I have a feeling that they only get what I show them,” he said. “They need to be able to branch from it, and they obviously need help with it (branching).

LSA High School junior Michael Disney has also helped his older relatives get used to new technology, and said he felt that young people’s brains are simply more adaptable to learn something new.

“When you are young, your mind is still developing,” he said. “(Technology) has just become part of the things you learn when you grow up.”

Brandon has now learned to be comfortable with technology, and it has opened up some possibilities that she didn’t have before. She reconnected with an old friend on social media. And she said she hadn’t written a check to pay a bill in a long time; it will all be automatically deducted from your account.

Adults need to learn to use phones and computers, but it’s like kids are just born using technology, Brandon said.

“My granddaughter, when she was 2 or 3 years old, her mother let her play some of these educational games and one day she finished, went into the room and said, ‘I’m done, I turned it off,’ and her mother said, ‘You can’t just turn it off. You have to go through different processes, ”and she said,“ I know mom, ”and (the mom) said,“ How do you know? ”And she walked Angie through each process,” Brandon said with a laugh.

© 2021 by Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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