How do you explain the internet to someone? Or even something as simple as email? It’s been so engrained in our culture and our lives, to actually step back and look at the milestones is a sobering effect.
A few weeks back I was dealing with a lady of 77 years of age, let’s call her Margret. Her family was intent on getting her an iPad. The reason being she lives in a small old age home and needs to contact her family via Skype. Obviously a few people in the family are tech-savvy, and managed to gather together enough money to buy her one. I thought it was a great token of kindness, because now not only can she Skype (i.e. call her family abroad) but also she has access to tons of applications and data at her fingertips (on the internet).
So I activated her iPad and showed her how it all worked, and while I was setting up her Apple ID, the first thing that I asked her was, “What is your email address?” She gave me a blank look. I explained that her for an account of any kind we’d need an email address to get her account going. I told her that she would be able to write letters to her family instantly, that’s the best explanation I could give without overwhelming her further.
I felt sorry for her, and the way technology frightened her. It’s really a marvelous thing once you get your head around the basics of the iPad. Due to various circumstances, she was probably given the opportunity to learn (how to operate a computer) but felt too scared and inferior, and shied away from the opportunity. Now her family had dosed her with a bucket of water by thrusting an iPad in her hands.
This leads me to two topics :
- Why are we so afraid to learn?
- Technology is the key liberator of our time.
When we start to learn it pushes out right out of our comfort zone into the realm of ignorance. Most of the time if you want to learn…you have to be receptive and be prepared to listen. Many people hate that feeling of vulnerability, and feel insecure (sometimes evening getting angry).
One of the better qualities in a teacher is patience. This is something that has poisoned many of us against certain subjects, since we had one cantankerous and moody teacher and scowled and berated us when asking a dumb question.
A wise old woman, who is a homeopath put it to me in this gentle way, “I’d rather die a failure than never having tried.” Progressing in life is simply trying new things. To get better at something (i.e. more skillful), you simply have to try. you may not succeed straight away, but that’s ok. Do a little bit at a time. Once in a while we will stumble and fall. Make mistakes, maybe even injure ourselves…but then like my good friend said at least we won’t be dying a failure.
Learning (as a teacher and pupil is a exciting and intoxicating feeling), once you’ve got the hang of the initial trying, you will goad yourself into finding new avenues. My father (who is a seasoned, and powerful educator) put it to me this way. “Learning is just about being curious.” You don’t have to be reading an entire library of books, or have ten degrees behind your name. Just get excited and your curiosity will teach you to explore and gain a deeper understanding.
The more I work in IT (either by myself, or by helping others), I’ve come to realize that it’s more than a skill. It’s a language and a tool, if you don’t embrace it immediately, soon it will fall away “like sand through your fingers”. If that didn’t make sense, allow me to use another example.
If you’re having a casual days with a few friends, then suddenly someone asks you “Hey let’s go to that pub I told you about?” The only catch being there are five people (including yourself), yet only two motorbikes to get you there. Now you’re stuck. Well, unless you’ve an wild caveman living in isolation…technology will always be this functional tool we require to alleviate the logistics we encounter.
Getting in a car the first few times, is darn nerve wracking. Once you’ve got the knack of it, you wonder how you managed without it. This is the dilemma I faced a while back with Margret. I had to rewind my thinking only a decade or two, so she could understand the advantages of embrace this digital beast we all face.
I’m glad that she tried, otherwise she would just be a failure, a figure, a statistic even. Perhaps embracing the depths of the unknown, and wrestling with it…will be the greatest challenge us homo sapiens face?