Volume 2, Issue 2
Ever used a
and felt like you were losing your marbles?
by Alana L. Reeves
the early 1980s, it was rare to find a personal computer in many
homes. These days, computers are easy to purchase or obtain
access to; not only are they cheaper and made by countless companies,
but more families can afford them--they are even being given
away with the purchase of a car! Computers have become a very
important part of daily life for millions of people around the world,
used by countless businesses and individuals for work, educational
purposes, or game playing and other forms of entertainment.
Younger and older generations alike need to have at least a basic knowledge
about computers and the ease that can come with doing things through
the Internet so that no one is left in the dark in the age of
technology where everything from going to the post office to get
postage, sending a normal snail-mail letter, to balancing a checkbook
is becoming an Internet activity that might one day be restricted solely to
Internet availability. I would like to offer my
knowledge so that people who have limited knowledge of the Internet and
its many advantages can easily expand their knowledge of computers and
Since I was
very young I have been around computers, whether I was playing Solitaire or
typing “important documents” on my mother’s computer at her office, or
playing (and learning simultaneously) “The Wagon Trail” in
school. Now that I am a 21-year-old college student, computers
have become a part of my daily life to keep up with friends who have
gone to colleges along the east coast or to find information on a
professor’s Web site or on Georgia Southern University’s Web site,
which is the home page on my personal computer because I have to access
it so often in order to find information for graduation or for a certain
However, what good would my computer be without an
Internet connection? Along with my computer, without my cable
modem to link me to the outside world, my computer would be relatively
useless to me except to type the never-ending supply of papers I submit
to professors or to play an occasional game of FreeCell.
using an ATM is second nature for people under 20 years old according
to Dr. Arthur Fisk, a Georgia Institute of Technology professor, during
an interview with Amanda Crowell. However, Fisk maintains that
ATMs are not the only problem for people over the age of 20. He
also makes a good point that “[p]roblems increase when everything from
software to World Wide Web pages to computerized library databases is
targeted at young adults or children” (Crowell).
The problems are
more specifically the lack of knowledge that older generations possess
to use a variety of software and the inability to access the Internet
at all in addition to “age-related changes in basic cognitive skills
such as speed of information processing, spatial abilities, memory, and
perceptual and attentional processes” (Marquie et al. 273).
Internet and its advantages may be focused toward the younger
generations (people under 20 years old) one obvious solution is to
broaden the focus and use the resources available to educate and train
the older generations. Fisk has been studying the use of computer
technology by older generations at the Georgia Institute of Technology
and works under the Center for Applied Cognitive Research on
Aging. His research has shown that “older adults want to learn to
use computers, but most software isn’t designed to address their needs”
(3). For instance, one limitation is the increasing lack of motor
control that older generations (people over 60) might have that would
limit their use of a mouse or joystick or keyboard.
years there has been much debate on the importance of technology,
whether the computer and the Internet are only more troublesome for the
youth of America and what will happen to the written word if everyone
comes to rely on email and online texts, from not only the
government, but also from scholars and the media. According to a poll
conducted by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, only 27 percent of Americans
over 60 years old have a computer in their home (NPR).
also revealed that the consensus on why they do not use a computer is
that they simply do not need one for their purposes (NPR). In
contrast, from looking at graphical evidence, 92 percent of Americans
under 60 years old have used a computer, while 53 percent have access
to the Internet and email at home (NPR). In general, most
Americans believe that computers and the Internet “have made Americans’
lives better” according to the poll.
have been done to understand and find new ways to educate the
increasing older population and to understand how the younger
generations are so in tune with what is going on in the way of
technology and computers. The study that I found to be the most
helpful to my argument that younger generations are ahead was the study
done by The BellSouth Foundation.
In 2000, the Power to Teach
program was incorporated into schools to help discover new ways to help
the older generation (the teachers, administrators, etc.) become
educated with the new demands of the younger generations coming in and
leaving their classrooms (the students) (1). What was discovered
was that “students are outpacing teachers in their familiarity with and
use of technology” (6).
The fact that students are surpassing teachers with the use of technology is no surprise, since most average
15 year olds have never really dialed a phone or stood in line for
movie tickets, which does not make them experts, but puts their parents
and older relatives at a disadvantage of not being able to do so.
The report from the BellSouth foundation is a plethora of information
taken directly from students in school and their teachers. It
paints a very sad portrait of classes taught on using computers using
textbooks made in 1986 that make no mention of the Internet.
Marquie, L. Jourdan-Boddaert, and N. Huet give an overview of a study
done to understand if adults underestimate themselves as far as
computer knowledge is concerned (273). According to their
findings, “older participants were more lacking in confidence in their
prospective judgments than the young, but only in the computer domain”
(274). Their study began with two groups, one with ages between
18 and 29 and the other with ages between 58 and 78 with a
metacognitive questionnaire with general questions about computer
knowledge and usage (275). As the results showed, “in the
computer domain it was the young who performed better than the older
participants” with significant differences (276).
aforementioned studies concluded that most people over the age of 60 are
interested in learning how to use computers and the many advantages
that are available through the Internet but that they are confused
about how to go about using them. Technology, in particular
computers and the Internet, is quickly becoming an important and
necessary part of life for many people.
The key to equalizing the
knowledge of the younger and older generations is education.
Workshops and programs led by students and other knowledgeable
volunteers would probably be extremely beneficial to those whose
knowledge is lacking in what most of us would see as simple tasks
involving computers or other forms on new technology that some of the
older population does not use simply because they do not know
Tutorials and educational materials are out there for older
generations (people over the age of 60), but some are not aware of
their existence or, again, do not know how to access them, namely
because they do not own or have access to a computer or the
key to increasing the older American public’s interaction with
computers and the Internet is education.
Check out these on-line tutorials to help learn your way through the
- Below is
a web tutorial for Netscape Composer, where anyone can create and edit
their own Web pages, as well as publish them onto the World Wide Web.
Here the University of Albany has given tutorials and tips for using
and searching the Web, using browsers, and software training.
They begin with the basics and go to the complex, from connecting to
the Internet to how to use WS_FTP.
- Mark Warner has
created a Web site to educate about the Internet itself,
Web browsers, guestbooks, searching the Internet, and researching on the Internet. Included is a fun little quiz to
test your knowledge of the Internet---harder than it looks.
- This site has
information about books, DVDs, and CDs that will help a novice.
In addition, there are tutorials about the World Wide Web, email
and searching the Internet.
- The AARP gives
information and links about "Basic Web Lessons." They provide
information on tool bars, address bars, taking care of common problems,
printing, finding things using the Internet, and understanding the
basics of the Internet.
- Web Tutorial List has many options. From their site, you can find computer tutorials on almost every subject.
Amanda. “Age Brings ‘Capabilities, Not Limitations.’”
Research Horizons. Georgia Institute of Technology http://gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/reshor/rh-win97/aging.htm (28 Apr. 2005).
J.C. et. al. “Do Older Adults Underestimate their Actual Computer
Knowledge?” Behaviour & Information Technology.
21.4 (2002): 273-80.
Public Radio. “Survey Shows Widespread Enthusiasm for High
Technology Americans Love Their Computers and the Internet; 'Digital
Divide' Still Exists, but There Is Good News, Too.” International
Communications Research. 1 Mar. 2000. http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/poll/technology/ (28 Apr. 2005).
BellSouth Foundation. “The Big Difference: The Growing Technology
Gap Between Schools and Students: Findings from the BellSouth Foundation
Power to Teach Program.” 2003. http://www.bellsouthfoundation.org/pdfs/pttreport03.pdf (28 Apr. 2005).