Textkit Logo

Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Textkit is a learning community- introduce yourself here. Use the Open Board to introduce yourself, chat about off-topic issues and get to know each other.

Moderators: thesaurus, Jeff Tirey

Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby Lucus Eques » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:18 pm

Salvete τε καὶ χαίρετε!

It seems the world becomes more and more dependent on technology, and thus with each passing year all people in modern society require basic computer skills just to get by.

Growing up with computers, I qualify as a "digital native," as Ian Jukes the educator calls them, while my parents are digital foreigners, and this makes sharing the benefits of technology with them (knowing how to use a computer or the internet effectively, for example) all the more challenging.

Both my parents can type, and both are able to read their email (they each have a computer, hand-me-downs from me and my sister), but neither have especially good understanding of the virtual space illustrated by graphic interface (we all have Macs, OS X). They are both incredibly intelligent people who have tremendous skills in non-computer areas. But despite Apples' reputation for being ridiculously easy to use, they still struggle. And thus, especially in the case of my father, they use their computers just for typing, and then ask me for how to print the thing. I'm happy to help, but I've been moved out of the house for quite some time now — I have had many-an-interesting conversation over the phone with them describing how to execute the most basic functions, such as dragging documents into flash drives, or attaching documents to an email — something this simple has taken hours; a typical line of such a phone conversation:

L: "Okay, now you saved it to the desktop. Now you can attach to your email."
Pater et Mater: "All right, how do we do that?"
L: "Bring the mouse over and click on the Finder face in the Dock."
Parentes: "What's 'the Dock' ?"
L: "You know when you bring the mouse over to the left side of the screen that thing pops out with all those programmes listed?"
P: [pause] "No."
L: "Bring the mouse over to the left side of the screen. That's the Dock."
P: "So which one do I click on here?"
L: "Finder."
P: "Which one is that?"
L: "The name of each thing appears when you drag the mouse over it."
P: [pause]
L: "Did you find it?"
P: "No."
L: "It's at the top. The smiley face."
P: "Okay. Got it."
L: "Did you click on it?"
P: [pause ... click] "Yes."
L: "Now, we want to get to the desktop. Go to the desktop."
P: "How do we do that?"
L: "By clicking on 'Desktop'."
P: [pause] "We don't see it."
L: [knowing it's in about three places in front of them] "It's right in front of you. In the Finder window that popped up after you clicked on Finder in the Dock. In the left column."
P: "Okay, there."
L: "Now, find the document you just saved."
P: [pause ... pause]
L: "Do you see it on the desktop?"
P: "No."
L: "What do you mean you don't see it? It should be right there. You saved it to the desktop, right?"
Pater: "No."
Mater: "Yes."

Then they debate what actually happened. Is it there and invisible to their digitally foreign eyes? or was it saved into some random recess of the ever-random "Documents" folder?

I know this script by heart, as it's happened many dozens of times by now. It is painful for all of us. The same basic concepts are foreign. Just manipulating the mouse to highlight text in a precise way is very challenging — these are people with incredible dexterity! They sculpt and build and draw and paint. Yet now amount of training in person or by phone seems to help more than marginally.

My impression is that their brains simply haven't developed the metaphorical wiring yet that relates the actions of the mouse and keyboard with what they see on the screen — a kind of hand-eye coordination. Would it help if they played video games? Seriously, would that help?

And they always insist upon writing down the procedure for the above events. Then either of two things happens: they can't find later what they wrote down, or they can't follow their own instructions. I insist that these basics aren't something you can write down more than you can write down the procedure for walking.

This has gone on for years. And they improve, but are not yet proficient enough for self-sufficiency, and soon I'll be out of this region of the country as I go on my own path in the world. Have any of you experienced this? How do you get them to incorporate technology into their lives such that it becomes second nature? How do they acquire the most basic skills?

I have looked for OS X tutorials online, but no interactive ones like the old OS9 systems used to have.

Any advice, suggestions, tips would be greatly appreciated. As I said, I won't be within an hour drive of my parents pretty soon, and being able to use computers and the internet will allow us to keep in touch much more personally than the occasional phone call.

Any ideas?
User avatar
Lucus Eques
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2001
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:52 pm
Location: Tōkyō, IAPONIA

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby easternugget » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:31 pm

I have had to do the same sort of thing with my grandparents and the DVD player. I really wonder what it will be like when we get old and there are fancy new technologies which we have never used.

I don't really have any advice, except for extremely detailed steps taped somewhere so they don't lose it. But that probably won't help too much.
easternugget
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 71
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:22 pm
Location: Jackson, TN

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby Lex » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:45 pm

A program like Remote Desktop for Windows would probably help immensely. It let's you take over another PC (with their permission, of course) over a network. You could take over the mouse and keyboard, and your Dad could watch what you do. I don't know what the Mac equivalent would be, but I would think they would have one.
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
User avatar
Lex
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 732
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:34 pm
Location: A top-secret underground llama lair.

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby annis » Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:38 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:My impression is that their brains simply haven't developed the metaphorical wiring yet that relates the actions of the mouse and keyboard with what they see on the screen — a kind of hand-eye coordination. Would it help if they played video games? Seriously, would that help?


Nope. They'd just be calling you to explain game mechanics.

I remain deeply suspicious of the whole "digital native" concept. I myself ought to be borderline but I have no reason to believe I speak digitese with any ancient accent, and just recently we mourned the passing of a man in his 80s who had no difficulty with computers, either. Indeed, some of our last email dealt cogently with the pros and cons of streaming vs. downloading audio content via a web server.

Dealing with computers requires a change in people's habits of thought — a trainable skill. Here are the fundamental rules of computers —

  • computers suck
  • no two computer programmers think the same

Two things follow from this. First, anyone who comes to a computer thinking of it like an appliance (i.e., is under the false impression computers are reliable) is going to be in trouble every time anything the least bit unexpected happens. This is the problem with recipes, to say nothing of how they age over OS upgrades. Second, because the programmers of your tools had no way to predict everything people want to do with their computers, any interaction with computers is an inherently exploratory undertaking.

Most of us who count as digital natives had plenty of time to completely screw computers up, for the most part without serious consequences. Many older people came to computing as adults in a work context, where screwing up would cause problems. Being able to safely mess something up remains a good way to learn about computers. We have several machines at my place of work that exist entirely to be broken.

If you can convince your parents it's worth the time, I'd find some way to get them a junker machine to just go wild with. Give them a chance to mess things up without losing anything important. Second, spend some very serious time instructing them in ways to undo actions — undo options in Edit menus, copying files before doing something novel to them, how to use Spotlight to find strays, etc.

Regarding Lex's suggestion, the newest versions of iChat will let you get remote viewing and control of someone else's Mac desktop.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby Lex » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:07 pm

My mom is in her late 60's, and can use a computer passably. But that's because 1) she had to for her job, and 2) she does so now for her hobby (computer controlled embroidery machines). And she feels comfortable with screwing her computers up, as William points out, because if she does, I have to fix it when I visit. :roll:

My dad never had to use a computer for work, and never had any interest in doing so for a hobby, so he never learned. I remember once, years ago (in the days of Windows 3.1) when Dad called Mom at her work because he thought her computer had crashed. "But the screen saver isn't showing up. All it has is a black screen, with a 'C', a colon, a slash, a greater-than sign, and this blinky thing. What does that mean?" :lol:

A lot of people think that OS GUIs are so intuitive that a person straight off the boat from Outer Mongolia can use one. Not so. It's a convention that takes time to learn, just like reading does. People used to learn how to use OS GUIs by 1) experimentation with a screw-up-able machine, like William says, 2) RTFM (reading the frickin' manual), 3) being sent to classes, or a combination of the above. Nowadays 1) isn't possible for most people at their workplaces, 2) OS's don't come with hardcopy manuals any more, and 3) the managers assume that everyone they hire knows how to use an OS, so they don't train them to do so.
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
User avatar
Lex
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 732
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:34 pm
Location: A top-secret underground llama lair.

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby IreneY » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:11 pm

I second annis' post and just want to add this: Give them time :)
My mother falls into the same category as yours and I can't beging to describe the amount of notes we've taken, the blow to my confidence as a teacher our long teaching sessions resulted in and the amount of furtive phone-calls.
I was trying to get her to understand that all she has to do is understand the logic behind the different computer software she's using. She refused to see any. I moved to the US which makes even phone-calls problematic and a few months afterwards, lo and behold, she is much more proficient and has admitted there is a common underlying logic in the way her progammes operate.
User avatar
IreneY
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:27 am
Location: U.S.A (not American though)

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby Lucus Eques » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:14 am

Thanks for the responses, all.

I'll apply some of these things.

By the way, Will, how would you suggest they screw up the stuff on a computer? Whatever you think will help them learn their various abilities (for good and ill).
User avatar
Lucus Eques
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2001
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:52 pm
Location: Tōkyō, IAPONIA

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby annis » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:11 am

Lucus Eques wrote:By the way, Will, how would you suggest they screw up the stuff on a computer? Whatever you think will help them learn their various abilities (for good and ill).


Well, I didn't have a deliberate plan of destruction in mind, but a computer on which they could spend some time just trying things out to see what happens without fear of losing anything important.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby Bert » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:43 am

annis wrote:Dealing with computers requires a change in people's habits of thought — a trainable skill. Here are the fundamental rules of computers —

  • computers suck
  • no two computer programmers think the same


Hence:
  • computers suck
  • no two computers suck the same
I have experienced this and now I feel better, knowing this is all because of fundamental rules.
Bert
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1890
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 2:28 am
Location: Arthur Ontario Canada

Re: Technologizing Digital Foreigners

Postby Lex » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:36 am

Bert wrote:
  • computers suck
  • no two computers suck the same


The above is not true. Computers are great; they are willing slaves that do exactly as you tell them to do. The problem is, you have to instruct them in their language, not yours, which is difficult. The list should read:

  • programmers suck
  • no two programmers suck the same

You might even add:

  • no programmer sucks exactly the same as he did six months ago
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
User avatar
Lex
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 732
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:34 pm
Location: A top-secret underground llama lair.


Return to Open Board

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot], Yahoo [Bot] and 29 guests