Digital Literacy at any age: Northern Ponca's Senior Initiative

In February, the Northern Ponca Housing Authority scheduled basic training classes on using computers and internet for our residents.  We followed Best Buy’s digital literacy curriculum to deliver training to participating tenants. Our focus was to provide participants with the skills required to connect to the internet, search and communicate online, and learn about online safety. The training also covered basic device operation and functionality to help participants get the most out of their hardware.

We targeted households who couldn’t afford the internet or purchase laptops; or who thought the complexity was way beyond their skill level. The class consisted of five participants, four of whom were over the age of 55! Some of the comments/fears at the start training were:  “It’s too complicated,” “I’ll never remember that,” “my grandkids are showing me,” and so on!

After an ice breaker, Shelby, our digital literacy instructor, got started with her powerpoint presentation.  She outlined fundamental digital literacy concepts such as computer setup, connecting to the WiFi signal, basic digital terminology, file maintenance and backup, viruses and spyware, and “how to get a do-over!”  Each slide offered information and educational steps to start. We had all participants power up their laptop and started showing the group the basics of a computer; identifying the start button, system tray, and other common components.  All were assisted with setting up an email address. By this point the tone began to shift, and the comments changed to “this is easier than I thought,” and “It is fun searching on the internet...”

After the second training class with the same participants, we introduced the importance of safety online, file maintenance, and showed participants how to organize files using libraries and folder locations. We assisted them with setting up new folders, naming folders for easy access, etc.  We went over the issues of viruses and spyware and explained how they could they could infiltrate systems via techniques such as phishing. We cautioned them to use common sense when browsing the web and surfing particular sites and on the importance of backing up files. We also offered “prevention tips,” such as never leaving their computer unattended (especially in public areas) and setting up a strong password. We also shared admonished them to avoid clicking on pop-up messages and unknown links etc.

At the end of the two classes they participated in, they were given the laptops and tablets they had been working on as part of their training. The residents were ecstatic when the program ended, sharing very different sentiments than they did at the onset; “My granddaughter will be excited about how much I’ve learned,” “I can’t wait to get started at home,” “thank you” and, “this was fun.” We’re looking forward to expanding the initiative and training more residents in the next iteration of our training!