When talking about the use of technology in the adult ed classroom I still hear some teachers say that because they work with older adults technology is not so important in their classrooms. Others like to talk about digital natives and digital immigrants as a way to talk about the divide between "older" and "young" people and how they use technology. Certainly you need to know your own students when thinking and planning on how to integrate technology into you classes, but don't assume age dictates a level of un-interest in technology.
Here are a couple of stories about a recent tour of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by 50 members of AARP
- "AARP Members Tour Cutting Edge Tech Show." Members of the AARP's Nevada chapter toured the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas —demonstrating older adults are comfortable with, and interested in new technology.
- "50 Nevada AARP Members Set to #DisruptAging at 2015 CES"
There are some great quotes from people who took part in the tour and the types of technology they are interested in.
What have been your experiences using technology with different age groups? Do you think the concepts of digital natives and digital immigrants is accurate?
Nell Eckersley, Technology and Learning Group SME
Hi Nell and all-
I'm so glad you brought this up! I'm delighted to report that I taught an online ESOL class half full of 70-somethings. Most came with the needed computer skills to comfortably use the course and communicate with me via email and Skype. They are regular users of the Internet to watch shows in their language, communicate with loved ones via email, WeChat, and Skype, study personalized vocabulary via games, and more. They preferred online learning because it didn't require travel time, and they could repeat lessons as many times as they liked in order to gain proficiency and confidence. (As a side note, several also wanted some portion of in-person time for all the benefits that kind of interaction brings.)
For your enjoyment, I resuscitated a charming and wonderful creation one of the elderly students worked on for months as a special class project. She did 100% of the technology, minus loading it on the class website. (The site had inadvertently gotten deleted by a colleague, so unfortunately you won't see the dozens of comments she received from her fans when it was first published.)
I give you 'Duck Story':
Thank you for posting this! I have found that some of our older students are more initially reluctant to use technology in the classroom, but they are the biggest proponents of using it once they get settled in. True, the learning curve is steeper for them then for some of the younger students, but the benefits are exponential. With persistence and patience from instructors (of all ages!), older students benefit immensely from using technology - especially when it comes to problem-solving and other 21st Century skills.