Teaching old dogs new tricks
Friday, June 29, 2012 at 4:52PM
Eularee in Healthy, Mac, Microsoft Word, PC, Windows. technology, Wise, computers, learning, seniors

In this complex and often chaotic world of ours, we have common ground. Technology. There is no way to get around it, over it or under it. We must go through it. Of course, you can tell yourself you are immune by not owning a cell phone or perhaps you don't even own a computer. But the reality is, these and many more technologies surround us in our everyday habits. Even the check-out stands at the markets are automated. Newspapers, magazines and books are slowly but surely moving into a more online state of being. Banking, credit cards, bill paying, even the cars we drive are becoming "smart" Resistance is futile.

This week I had to face one of my weak links in the technology chain. I am firmly planted in the Mac camp of the computer world. PCs are aliens as far as I am concerned. We do not speak the same language and frankly, that is fine with me. I come from a family of Mac users. Until recently my Dad had a Mac Classic in his office. 

My son, however, makes his stand in the PC camp. He is a genius when it comes to working his way around that foreign object and yet he still understands the Mac. You might say he is computer bilingual. With that extraordinary skill, I have implored him to teach me what I need to know in order to teach a group of students age 50 plus, how to use the PC and all its evil subsidiaries.

Together we spent two hours at the community college computer lab, bonding. Son teaching mother the intricacies of the PC world of computing. He patiently watched me fumble around with the right click, left click mouse while trying to find terms of equal definition for what he was showing me. For instance, the PC calls the "trash can" the recycle bin. The short cut "CTRL A" on a PC is the Command button on the Mac. You use backspace instead of delete. You hit enter instead of return. Fascinating!

One of the classes I will be teaching is the basic knowledge of Microsoft Word. Fortunately, I am very proficient in this application, but then I look at the Windows screen and ask him where is the Palette? The what, he replies. Lesson number 25, there is no palette tool in Word PC. Sigh. I begin at square one or "new" in this case. After a while, I begin to get the gist of it and continue to be grateful for the Mac and its seemingly more intuitive nature.

I have had to use the PC begrudgingly on several occasions so although it is not completely foreign to me, it is certainly not the country I choose to live in. But I do know that despite the language barrier, I can now navigate my way through the Windows world without the use of my GPS. Thankfully the students I am teaching have no sense of direction so my broken PC speak will be adequate to help them on their inevitable and long overdue journey into technology. Teaching this old dog a new trick has been a brain exercising experience and one I can now teach with great empathy. 

Learning is the gateway drug to not only expanding our minds but also instilling new confidence in our ability to converse, participate and contribute in the ever-changing world. Presenting ourselves with new challenges keeps us vital and interested in the role we play in life. Whether it is learning a new task, how to operate new equipment, retool for a job or keep up to date in our careers, learning continues to be a mind- blowing experience.

Images: Flickr by Sarah G

Article originally appeared on Eularee Smith • Writer & Educator in Eugene, Oregon (http://www.eularee.com/).
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