Do your friend a favour with just in time computer help

by John Travers

The current health crisis is making one thing very clear. If you have poor computer skills you are going to be at an increasing disad­vantage. The avail­ab­ility of the internet is one of the saving graces of the ‘stay at home’ rule. It allows us to keep informed, keep in touch with friends and family and go about our daily business. For example, Supermarkets are setting up large scale home delivery services aimed at the elderly and disabled people. These services depend on online ordering. 

I have been a computer nerd for a long time and in recent years have been taking classes for mainly elderly people in how to use the iPad and iPhone. My customers are a very diverse group. They all have the initi­ative to seek out help from a class. They are largely women. Men seem reluctant to seek help. Some are confident in them­selves and soak up new inform­a­tion. Many lack confid­ence in their own ability. Many say that getting help from their children and grand­chil­dren is frus­trating. The helpers, they say, are in a hurry and tend to take over and then disappear. I suspect that often the learner only seeks help when in a critical situation, so are frus­trated and angry. Not a good learning situation.

If you are reading this article you are probably quite good at using the internet, because you have found your way here. You no doubt have friends who have quite poor skills and who are left out of conver­sa­tions about getting inform­a­tion from the internet, finding enter­tain­ment and using tech­no­logy to keep in touch with family. I urge people to intervene to help friends who lack skills. This means gently prodding people to learn. Often people don’t know what is possible. 

The trouble with classes like mine is that they pack a lot of inform­a­tion into a session which can be over­whelming. The best learning is ‘just in time’ learning. When there is an immediate need and and oppor­tunity to have support. So if you find a friend who doesn’t know how to do something, it is doing them a real favour to intervene and test whether they are willing to learn and be there to provide it. Following up later is valuable because the learner has had a chance to try the skill by them­selves then get help if they ran into a problem. Just in time learning with follow-up  is powerful.