Posts Tagged ‘Education’

“I’ve lived over 60 years without a computer and won’t start now,” a friend’s mother told him.

“Mom, you have to start now. It will be easier now than when you’re 70,” her son told her.

Then he continued with the jaw dropping clincher, “You had better learn to use a computer now, while you can, before you get old and using a computer is the only thing you have left that you CAN do.”

I would never have had the guts to say that. But he’s right. It’s easier to learn now than it is to learn later.

Computer technology and social media offer outlets never before available to those who face physical challenges. They have an opportunity to connect with the outside world, whether it’s beautiful outside or there’s an ice storm.  New tech changes will make it that much easier for older people to stay independent and involved.

Skype is a growing trend among seniors who want to stay connected with family members in other areas. Some families have dinner together via Skype.

How do you help an older family member or friend be more independent on the computer? When I’ve worked with senior citizens, the following helped.

  1. Go slow. Repeat often. Write down steps and have them follow the steps with you.
  2. Have them click the mouse. If you take over the mouse, they will never learn to click.
  3. Begin with solitaire. This teaches them to drag and drop, click, and double-click. Explain what click, double click, and right click are used for.
  4. If double-clicking is a challenge with a traditional mouse and they want to use a mouse, teach them to hold the mouse still and think “tap tap” instead of “double click.” The words “double click” have fricative sounds, and people jiggle their hands more with those sounds than when they think “tap tap.”
  5. Spend time teaching them to minimize, maximize, and close windows.
  6. Make sure they understand how to cut, copy, and paste.
  7. Help them save photos to a place where they can find them later.
  8. Be sure their system is backed up.
  9. Repeat the same topic several times if needed.
  10. Make sure they have shortcuts to get to the programs they use most often – most likely email and maybe social media.

If you’re a senior, what poses the biggest computer challenge to you? If you’ve helped senior family members, what tips can you share to help others?


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“Don’t teach. Facilitate,” I explained to skeptical instructors in a train the trainer program 15 years ago. The points of our program were:

  1. Look at your audience. They are unique. Know who they are and reach them there.
  2. Ask your audience questions. Assume nothing – start with basics. If they can answer the basics, they will gain confidence to master the tougher stuff.
  3. Answer your audience’s questions. Keep control of the conversation, but make a list of questions to get back to, if needed afterwards.
  4. Engage your audience. Find novel ways for them to participate. The more they participate, the more likely they are to incorporate it into their lives. See what works and what doesn’t, tweak it, and try again.

Look + Ask + Answer + Engage = Listen.

At first, I didn’t believe facilitation worked. I lacked the time to “Facilitate” when I was supposed to “Teach.” Teaching meant going through my list of exactly what was to be learned, opening the heads of my students, and dumping it there.

A brain dump ends up with a toxic brainfill with so much stuff nothing is absorbed, and the good stuff runs off first time it rains.  If an adult was subjected to a bad teacher who pushed, pushed, pushed, odds are students tuned out the teacher. So when instructors of adults push too hard, adult students respond by tuning them out.

Tune out = nothing accomplished. Listen so they tune in = students find new ways to apply what they learn and keep using it.

Facilitation can work. In order to work, the “facilitator” has to pan for gold – sift the rocks in the lecture and keep the best nuggets.  Listen to the audience but make sure the nuggets and important information is covered.

In the social media age, I see the same transition happening in marketing and advertising. Generations of salespeople were taught to PUSH their message, PUSH their product, and PUSH to get sales.

Problem is PUSH is now as attractive and current as that avocado green toilet was when we bought our house.

After a lifetime of PUSH, consumers now tune out the moment the PUSH pitch begins.

Marketers wishing to survive in the 21st century had better learn to PULL, to listen, and to facilitate to survive. Follow those same steps we gave teachers:

Look, Ask, Answer, and Engage.

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My high school speech team experiences failed in a key aspect of grooming public speakers; preparing them for the unexpected, bad situation. We gave speeches in classrooms of polite audiences.

I addressed this gap when coaching high school speech students.  One week we had the poised speaking contest.  Could you stand up, introduce yourself, and say something briefly in front of a room of badly behaving people trying to distract you? We made it a game, but I had a very real, very serious purpose behind it. Speakers must learn to think on their feet and deal with the unexpected. The pristine speaking environment does not exist in the real world.

For the past 25 years, I’ve spoken in front of different groups, for varied purposes, including teaching computer software classes the past 15 years. My audiences have ranged from preschoolers to senior citizens; from prison inmates to attorneys; from recovering drug addicts to medical professionals; and from front line industrial workers to top level CEO’s.

Some of my more memorable adventures in public speaking:

  1. A woman groaned in an Excel class while I explained a difficult formula. At first, I thought my formula setup was wrong. Then I realized we were having an earthquake. The class took a break while we checked the geological survey for the Richter reading. It was low, and class continued.
  2. Once as I spoke, a priest was giving a workshop at the same time. His microphone was being piped into the speakers in my room. I tried to speak over him until in a deep voice that sounded like God Himself speaking to us we heard, “Our Father, who art in heaven….” I stopped, told the attendees I couldn’t talk over a priest praying, and they laughed. We waited till he finished and prepared to move to the hallway when they finally fixed the technical glitch.
  3. Another time in an Excel class, I asked the class what a spreadsheet formula result meant. At that moment, a student’s cell phone rang, saying, “Don’t go apeshit on MY ass!” To which I responded, I hope that’s not what the result is. The student apologized after the class. I suspect she changed her ring tone.
  4. During a workshop with utility workers, a terrible storm began. We could hear the sheets of rain hitting the roof. Suddenly, there was a huge crash. I looked outside the classroom and realized the wind had torn the front door from 2 of its 3 hinges. My boss was there and grabbed the door, keeping it from crashing and shattering glass. The utility workers said, “We can fix that. We’ve got tools in our truck.” The class took a break, and I went to the bathroom. When I returned, the door was back in place, the workers’ tools were in their trucks, and they were in the classroom, ready to continue.

Public speaking is an adventure just as thrilling as skiing a slalom. Once you begin, you never know what will happen before you get to the bottom of the mountain. But the more often you experience the unexpected, the better you will handle….

…the earthquake, the severe thunderstorm, or the booming voice that sounds like it’s God Himself overpowering you.

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My tweeting has changed my teaching style.  I have taught continuing education computer classes for a community college for 14 years – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access classes. Every time I teach, I leave classes happy because I have found some way to empower my students to better use computers to make their lives easier.

When I started teaching companies to use social media, a key point was telling them to listen.  If they listen and engage on those levels, good things will happen.

That has migrated into my classroom.  First, I started broadening each class to begin with a question/answer session.  That’s riskier than following a book.  As I answer questions, I demonstrate live, in front of the room.  Sometimes the demonstrations don’t go as planned.  Those become better teachable moments than if I merely followed a cookbook textbook approach to lesson plans.

Something funny happened on the way to the spreadsheet in a recent Excel class.  As I reviewed options on the ribbon, I pointed out the translate button.

Suddenly, the entire room began to buzz.  The employees in this class began to talk to one another. 

I listened.

They are working with a plant in Mexico, and every student in the room had a daily need to find better ways to communicate with non-English speakers.

Pause the spreadsheet formula. 

For the next 20-30 minutes, I showed how to do a simple translation in Word and how to set up translation tips.  That morphed into googling for translator helps; none of the students ever thought of googling for a translator.  Then we discussed Google chat and its translate feature.

We eventually got back to the spreadsheet.  Class ran a little late as I raced to meet all the goals set for the day’s class.  Had I bulldozed over their conversation, we would have finished on time.

However, my listening gave the class an unexpected lesson in something they needed right here, right now, to decrease their stress and better focus on their jobs.  They saw new ways to leverage technology to work FOR them, not against them.

I saw something new too. In 14 years of teaching, I have grown too comfortable teaching the same old same old.  Listening and keeping up with tech advances makes every class a game changer.

Tweeting is make me practice what I teach.

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