Some years back, my parents were strictly against computers (as a matter of fact, so was I back in the long distant past where computers meant you were coding in Fortran). I recall my father stressing that he never wanted one of those blasted machines in his house nor would it take over his signwriting business. (He hand painted all the signs which in themselves, were wonderful pieces of art and which I see in different parts of the city because he has a unique artistic style).
Now many years later, it’s an entirely different picture.
Over the years, both my brother and I took it in turns to teach my father how to use the computer and learn the internet. As he is a self-directed learner and ever curious, he took to it like a duck to water. So much so, that it’s not uncommon to go to my parents home and see him building computers from scratch, changing hard drives, loading and testing software. Last week, I gave him an old computer box and a Windows laptop which he gleefully took from me, removed the offensive Google Chrome and installed Ubuntu.
I think he’s got all the hardware and software under control.
However, one thing he’s still quite attached to is the burning of CDs and DVDs. He loves to keep music, photos and movies as hard copies and at times, this gets confusing when trying to explain that I don’t need to burn anything anymore because it’s on “the cloud” and I can access it anywhere, anytime.
Similarly, a few weeks back he was having an issue with his USB stick that provided him with access to the 4G network to access the internet and I convinced them that they need to look into getting the home connected to broadband internet. That way, they could connect with their family overseas, stream movies and music and basically bring the house out from 1972 and into 2018. However, the idea of doing this (and the cost) seemed too huge to contemplate.
So we went to one of the retail shops and asked for good deals going and sure enough, with one of the providers, they could have a home and internet bundle as well as be provided with a tablet on a 4G network. He signed the dotted line and the transfer from the previous provider to the new provider happened.
Now it wasn’t without its problems.
Of course, we took the modem and then spent half the day rigging it up. We also bought a Fetch TV so they can view YouTube and some limited free channels. Following the instructions were easy enough but over the two days, the speed of the service was very slow. With some diagnostic fault finding and a helpful IT person, they correctly diagnosed that our splitter was faulty. So back to the shops, changed the splitter and voila, the speed increased dramatically.
I think the increase in internet speed also created a marked improvement in my parent’s mood. It was as if they had the electricity back on – they could breathe a sigh of relief.
The thing is that for all these years, they were without the internet and only used it on a laptop whenever they needed to. The talk of the cloud, apps, broadband, 4G, Netflix and other things that we take for granted was like another language to them. They were simply not part of this technological revolution – in fact, even though they knew their way around a computer – they were missing out in some ways.
I sat down and explained the concept of WiFi and 4G networks; explained and demonstrated what an app was and how different they are to software programs. I showed the differences between a laptop and a tablet (one of the biggest issues to overcome was this idea of not downloading, storing and burning onto CD or DVD but that you consume – or you keep in the cloud. My father took it all in like a sponge and had organised the settings within the first hour of the tablet in his hand.
I’ve watched my parents over the last few weeks now as a whole new world opens to them. Talking with family and friends through the internet; watching their favourite old Greek movies off YouTube; searching and finding old comedy television shows and reliving the past, they finally feel as if they are part of the fold.
I wondered about people who may not be lucky to have a son or daughter, a family member or a friend to show them how to do this or to provide some coaching in the home. Sure, there are community places that provide classes but how do you know what you need and why you need it? How do you set it all up? How do you use it?
I really enjoyed coaching and teaching my father to become digitally savvy (who in turn, shows the basics to mum) and see the difference it has made to their lives. I believe that I’m patient when it comes to showing people what they need to do and how they need to do it when I understand what problems they have. Coaching someone who is also naturally curious and self-directed and motivated is also a bonus because they also end up teaching you a thing or two as well.
In the future, one of the things I’d love to do is to give back to the community in some way and I’d happily help those who may feel disconnected or isolated in their communities on how to use technology to connect with their loved ones and bring the world into their life.
This blog post by Helen Blunden was written in Melbourne, Australia and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.