Possessing a Passion for Digital Literacy

The last time I left a post, it was on January 26th. I am late in providing my ongoing material, because I allowed myself to become sidetracked by another issue, which will be out in a future post.

In the meantime, this post will focus back on my students.

If you don’t know my story, I teach senior citizens how to develop a passion for the technological marvels of our age. I love my students. They arrive in my classroom with a phobic disgust of anything technological. To some of my students, what many of us take for granted feels as unreachable as climbing Mount Everest. I have students who suffer from short-term memory loss. I have other students who have problems understanding the keyboard. One or two students even show up occasionally, only to fall back again and miss the class until another two or three weeks has gone by. But all of my students swear that they love the class and that they can’t wait to see what we are doing tomorrow.

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What brings my students back?

Perhaps it is the excitement of discovering something new, maybe even the possibility of rekindling a new career as a self-employed retiree. What all of my seniors expect from me is a constant reminder to rediscover that little boy or little girl inside of themselves that can once again, play.

I follow the Microsoft Digital Literacy program.

Here is my suggestion. If you don’t know anything about the program, try taking the test, first. Don’t even look at the curriculum, just take the test. Don’t try to cheat. Anyone who knows how to use a search engine can most definitely do so, but if you do, you’ll never know the full extent of your digital knowledge. If you pass the test…cool! You’ve got a signed, sealed and delivered certificate from Microsoft, attesting to the fact that you are digitally literate. But a simple test such as Microsoft’s can show you areas where you may need some improvement.

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How do I get my seniors to a level of digital literacy, from novice or non-computer user?

Many teachers want to get right into the dirt and start rattling off terms that deal with systems, subsystems and how things work. I spend the first day getting to know my students. I ask them why they are taking the class. I want to know their goals, their aspirations and their dreams about why mastering technology is so important to them. What surprises me, is that many of my students are in the class because someone told them that they HAVE to TAKE my class. I have many students return and take the class a second time, often under the impression that I will cover the same material that I went over in the previous class, only to be surprised to find that I have added something new, or that I have changed the presentation of the class. I have student assistants who have been with me for over two years, and swear that every day, they learn something different that we did not cover in any previous class. But what never changes in my class are the videos that I show on that first day. If you have never watched “A Day Made of Glass“,

follow the link I am providing. Corning gives a lot of insight into their goals and dreams for our future. I also show the latest videos on whatever Windows version has been released, as well as Indiegogo or Kickstarter videos. My new favorite video to show my first day students has been the Oculus and Hololens technology.

The cool thing about watching the looks of excitement on the faces of my students is the realization that our world is changing. The passions of my students stem from the realization that sooner or later (probably sooner), they will be alive to see the changing technological face of our world.

I’m sure that there are plenty of people who will find this post filled with unrealistic dreams.

My personal feeling is that anyone who feels that what I am discussing is placing unrealistic goals on my students, has not seen the progress that my seniors make every day. My classes are full. I have one or two seniors in my class who have been using word processing software of every kind, databases, spreadsheets and even managed high tech companies. I have a former nurse in my class, who loves the material that we cover. She only just retired, but she has an opportunity to explore how she can possibly touch more people with a blog that she is creating. My students are rediscovering how to live in this brave new technological monstrosity that we call a world, and mold the technology that they have to their standard of living.

On day two, I start with the mouse and the keyboard, going over every button and every key.

Over the years that I have been teaching students how to use the computer, I found that a large number of my students do not know what many keys on the keyboard are called, or why some of those keys still exist. I cover Windows, showing my students who have difficulties manipulating the mouse (often due to arthritic problems), keyboard shortcuts. I show my students who have difficulty seeing the screen how to key in the magnifier, so that they can better see the screen (rather than attempting to change the entire display). I show my students how to use Peek and Alt+Tab. They always love Windows Menu+Tab. But my second day students are always introduced to “Paint“. We end the class, with my students rediscovering how to get back in touch with their inner child, to give themselves permission to play with the mouse, almost like playing a game of “Kick the can“.

I offer 3 6-week sessions for my seniors, Fundamentals, Intermediate and Advanced.

Each day is only 2 hours. Each week covers a different level. I introduce my Fundamentals students to Microsoft Word, Excel and the World Wide Web. I work on the principle that adults can function best in 2-hour spurts. The day is fast for my seniors. We cover just enough ground to get them going. The rest of the learning is up to them. I give them plenty of work to practice with and encourage them to work together in teams. My Fundamentals students do not go beyond the computer until the last week, when we search the web together as a group.

My Intermediate students begin with securing email accounts.

Even if a student has an existing email account, we create another to familiarize them with the standard First Name, Last Name, etc. that is so prevalent on the web, today. We then begin the task of learning about theft on the web, respecting creative boundaries and where they can go to download royalty-free images. Intermediate students are schooled in the meaning of uploading, downloading, presentation software, spreadsheets and databases.

My Advanced students are savvy with computers and searching the web.

Advanced students start with creating a blog and developing their first post to the web. I have all of my students post to their blog every week. I use the recurring theme method, to teach my students how to begin staying on top of their blog. The next week is an introduction to social media. We cover Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and SnapChat. My Advanced students sign up for visual media sites like: Skype and Hangouts. My advanced students learn how to use their smartphones and tablets. Our goal however, is to take the Microsoft Digital Literacy test and earn their certificate.

18 weeks and a few hours of classroom instruction prepare my students to share.

One thing I stress with all of my students is that because they may be approaching their twilight years, the world does not end. I stress their responsibility as keepers of wisdom and experience, to pass on their knowledge with their blogs.

Perhaps the greatest passion of all, does not lie in experiencing the newest technology.

Maybe the greatest passion that we possess is that passion in all of us to learn something new. Perhaps our other passion should be to share our wisdom with those younger than us, and to leave behind a small footprint of who we were, what we learned over our very short lives, but most importantly, how we lived.

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