Transforming lives through digital literacy.

"Bring your own device" clinic participants

I’d like to kick off the new year by sharing my experience as a senior digital and adult literacy trainer and recent observations I’ve made. Technology has much to offer elders, but it needs to be adjusted to meet the needs of each learner. Every learner is unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses.

One learning approach I share with other trainers is to listen to seniors’ stories while they explain their need for digital help. No matter how brief the tutoring engagement, listening to their stories enables me to figure out learning pathways to help transform their lives digitally. Listening to my learners’ stories informs me about their fears, confidence, and self-esteem. Most of what they reveal explains how they were treated as a learner, indicating times they felt embarrassed or dismissed when trying their best — and based on these unfortunate educational experiences, learners think they will fail at teaching and learning activities.

To help seniors feel comfortable, I rely on the notion that everyone knows more than they think they do. I encourage each learner to share their attitude about education. Then, I provide an approach to show how much they actually know, connecting it to particular digital endeavors. I take elements of the story they’ve told me and use it as an example. More importantly, their stories prompt me to celebrate every digital skill accomplishment, regardless how minor or major. This helps them feel like they’ve succeeded and encourages them to take on bigger problems over time.

Even though my observations and experiences in helping seniors are not necessarily new, I look forward to my continued engagement to provide significant turning points for learners in 2019. Every trainer can benefit from hearing their students out first. They hold the key to their own success, and we are helping them there.

William’s Corner: Listening to Learners

About Author

William Dean