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10 Tips for Teaching Technology to Tech-Novices

Author: Lauren Allegrezza

...be a little bit intimidating. Here at Telikin, weve had thousands of conversations with seniors first learning how to use the computer and the internet, and weve heard what questions they ask, what hesitations they have, and what issues they face when it comes to getting started with technology. If youve been wanting to help your tech-novice parents, grandparents, or senior friend get started on the computer, here are some tips that weve put together to help you help them.

1) Provide Encouragement

Many seniors and first time users doubt their ability to learn how to use a computer, so it is essential when you introduce technology to let them know that they are capable of learning! Ordinary people, just like them, successfully learn to use computers all the time. Allay their fears and concerns by providing reassurance that they are just starting out, and like all beginners, will eventually master the basics and move onto more advanced concepts.

2) Start with the Basics

This is especially true for those who have never even touched a computer before. It may be necessary to explain the parts of the computer What is a mouse? How do the screen/touchscreen, keyboard, and mouse work together? What are the icons or buttons on the screen, and what are their functions and meanings? It is crucial not to dive right in, but to start with a basic outline of the foundation and most common features.

3) Move in Incremental Steps

Overwhelming the new user with too many instructions and features at once will only discourage them. Start with the basics, and once they seem to have a grasp on those, move on to one application at a time. A computer game, such as solitaire, can be a great ice-breaker for beginners because it is familiar, fun, and provides immediate feedback about performance. Email is another good starting point because it can be easily related to traditional mail. Once the user starts reading and sending emails to their family and friends, they will be motivated to build on their success and learn additional skills.

Senior-Lady-Thumbs-Up-lg4) Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

As with learning any new concept, repetition is important. It is likely that the user will need to be shown a task several times before being able to accomplish it independently. Demonstrate a given task multiple times by slowly going through the steps, stopping to answer any questions. Encourage them to continue practicing the task independently. Be sure to emphasize the incremental and repetitive nature of learning. Compare learning computer skills to learning other tasks that are unlikely to be mastered in one session, such as driving a car.

5) Find Out Their Motivation For Learning Computers

You should not assume you know what the user would like to do on the computer. Instead of asking them which application theyd like to learn, ask them what they would like to accomplish. For example, they will probably not say, I want to learn how to use the web browser, but they might say, I want to read about my antiques collection. You can then explain how the web browser can be used to research antiques. If they wish to communicate with family or friends, then you will know to start teaching email and video chat first.

6) Explain the Benefits of a Computer

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one. Many seniors say, Why would I want to learn to email or use the internet? If you provide tangible examples of what a computer can do for them, they will be more motivated to learn how to use it. Explaining how they can see pictures of their grandchildren or how they can look up health information with a computer will allow them to consider what they are missing by not using one.

7) Describe Tasks, Concepts, and Features in a Relatable Manner

Because beginners have limited computer experience, certain concepts may be difficult for them to conceptualize. For instance, the idea of websites may be a little confusing. Explain how a website is like a book it has a cover (home page), a table of contents (side navigation buttons), and many pages within it (each different screen within a site).

8) Be Patient

This tip rings true for anyone teaching any kind of new skill. Remember that your attitude will affect the users attitude about the computer. Provide plenty of practice opportunities for them and understand that there are individual differences in learning. Seek feedback from the senior about what they find both challenging and rewarding about computer use, and tailor your instruction to their responses. Use more preferred computer activities to reinforce those that are less preferred; for example, if games are a preferred activity, when teaching internet searches, have the learner search the web for games.

9) Provide Support

No one wants to be left with a machine that they cannot use and simply collects dust. Assure your parents that you (or another teacher) will be there to help them learn how to use the new device. This will allow them to be more open to trying things on their own, because they know their helper can address questions as they arise. New skills might be taught in a one on one session either in person or remotely. Remote access allows the teacher to drive the learners computer and provide how to information.

10) Use Encouragement