Last week’s annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America was an opportunity to share what we’ve learned so far about technology training for mature adults – and to get insight on how to keep improving it.
Technology literacy remains a critical issue for mature adults. According to the Pew Research Center’s latest poll
, only 42% of adults age 65+ use the Internet vs. 79% for all adults.
Being able to wield the power of the Internet is a key to successful aging. Every day more essential information is online – from Medicare and prescription drug coverage benefits to health conditions and treatment options. You need technology skills just to apply for a job these days and employers say the top disadvantage for older job seekers is the lack of current skills. Staying connected to family and friends is even more important as we get older, and email and social networks are where that’s happening.
At the meeting, Chin Chin Lee of the University of Miami and I presented our research to evaluate OASIS Connections
, our computer and Internet curriculum. The results provide evidence that the program is effective at helping people build their skills, knowledge and comfort using computers. (For details, please see the Executive Summary
and our presentation
What makes it work is a focus on helping people overcome their intimidation and build confidence and success. Friendly materials with step-by-step instructions, large readable text and screen illustrations demystify technology. In course evaluations, students tell us they especially value the hands-on activities and ample time to experiment and get past the fear that they’ll break something. Most important is the instructor’s role in creating an atmosphere of acceptance and fun, patiently answering questions, and encouraging students to learn from each other.
The peer learning approach is a key for other researchers at the GSA meeting. Bob Harootyan
and Frank Slobig
from Senior Service America
described how they have trained SCSEP
participants to serve as peer coaches for older adults who are building basic technology skills. Bo Xie
from the University of Maryland presented research on collaborative learning strategies that actively engage students in working together to find health information on the Internet. The approach is especially useful in classes with varied technology skill levels – a common challenge – to help less experienced students learn from peers with more experience. We’re looking closely at how these strategies can benefit our audience.
Many thanks to Sara Czaja
and Chin Chin Lee
at the University of Miami’s CREATE
program for helping us take the next step to improve our program, and many other researchers in this field for advancing our knowledge of ways to close the digital divide for mature adults.
Director of Communications and Technology
How does your ability to use the Internet matter in your life? What approach has helped you learn what you need to take the next step using technology?
2 comment(s) so far...
By Linda on
Re: Growing the ranks of the techno-savvy
i've teaching Computers for older adults since the Apple Performer days. I think that the rigid specs for Mac programs makes it easier to learn how to use computers.
However the PC world requires that basic computer teaching be on a PC as of the start of Windows as an operating program- Slowly a PC is becoming like a mac, so teaching is about the same. Many older Americans need to have the skills for a job or for whatever. But, many older Americans see no need for it at all. they are afraid they will break it or mess it up.
A need hook must be found early on or they will not even try.
Games, Internet, e-mail, and shopping, are good hooks as well as sports, news or weather.
A good instructor starts with Vocabulary then proceeds to Games to teach mouse skills. Typing is not really that important since the senior has much more time than most of us. Rapid commands to get seniors to stop trying to over think computers seems most helpful.
By Tally on on
Re: Growing the ranks of the techno-savvy
You sell the names of people that sign up with you and it would be
nice if you were up front and told threm that you do this.