Seniors and technology

My neighbour’s 95 year old auntie was beside herself with excitement when her daughter had got her an iPad one Christmas and shown her how to use Facetime and email. She then learned how to do searches and they installed apps with her that she liked. For the first time in a long time she could have daily contact with her family and friends and she could feel like she was part of the world again. Last year I was sitting next to an older lady who was trying to use Google voice to find CostCo. “Okay Google”, she said very confidently , “Find Costco.” She started tutting and was repeating her instructions. I had got my phone out, connected to 4G and searched on Google maps app. It was quicker. I showed her and she was happy to know how to get there so she could tell her husband. So why hadn’t the Google voice thing worked? Her connection may not have been solid. We were in a noisy place so the instructions may not have been heard. Siri and Google voice have their uses but they are still in the development phase and will will improve as people continue to use them.

Older people are no different with technology needs than younger people. We are constantly having to review and refine what is on offer. What suits one age group does not suit the next. What works with one group does not follow through to the next. No matter who we are discussingt we have to be in constant conversations about what users need. We have the internet. We have connectivity. We have a capacity to learn and share together. We have the opportunity to get the needs and requirements out there so that changes can be made. We need the sites which allow us to share the information for seniors so we can know what they need and share what is working. Some only want their landline. They don’t want a mobile phone. Some will use a mobile phone if someone shows them how to use it. Some just want a phone and not a smartphone. Some need a tablet rather than a phone because they have vision problems or they can’t hold onto a small device.

Sometimes it’s the labelling. Not every older person recognises the “done” button as meaning that they have completed a task or install on their phone or tablet. Some don’t understand the need to install updates and just find all those messages confusing and annoying. Seniors want clear instructions and uncluttered screens from my experience. Our area runs a lot of small groups to help older people sort out their issues with technology. It works. Like younger age groups, it is needs based and personal learning. One to one works. Showing is better than telling.

The needs are going to change according to the group. A lot of people in their 60s and 70s are very competent with technology because of workplace training and experience or families. Some older people want nothing to do with technology because they don’t like what they call all the rubbish. They want something more sensible. There are people in ther 80s and 90s who are also very competent with technology but others who avoid it. Some of that is cost and availability. It will also depend on what health issues are being experienced. Older people and their advocates, where applicable, need to be able to freely share information about needs. We need to get that sharing of information going because we do have lots of options available to us in terms of technology.

Anzac Day

Anzac Day is a public holiday and day of remembrance in Australia where we, as a nation, salute the fallen. Anzac Day now bigger than just the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops on Gallipoli in 1915. It’s a day where we remember all Australians who have served and fallen in war and on operational service. The song I was only 19 is one which we often hear on Anzac Day even though it was written by John Schuman for those young conscripts who went to Vietnam. It’s a powerful song and now iconic in our culture. The band Redgum was one which represented those who could easily be forgotten because they had fallen in war.

There is currently quite a push on the internet so that we remember the right people for the right reasons. Netizens are questioning why we promote and endorse stupidity so easily on the internet when there are others so much worthier. This is the message of I was only 19. It is worth noting John Schuman was a teacher in a southern suburbs school and moved from there into his musical, political and social justice career. In 2015 he wrote Every Anzac Day, a song about aboriginal soldiers who served in the Australian military. He has been teaching us well about how we can deal as a nation with the impact and implications of war for individual lives.

Social justice in ICT

world bank educationThe World Bank is doing much to pioneer ICT in developing countries and you can read about it on their site and then on the link to their blog. They have a SABER-ICT checklist which is being used but it is a handy tool for any school implementing ICT. What do you do with the e-waste? How are you providing ICT competencies and training for your teachers? What are your ICT and digital competency requirements? Our national curriculum in Australia will deal with some of those issues but we still need to be looking at things like how to address assessment using ICT. The checklist is a good foundation for thought and discussion. You can also download a useful and well made powerpoint about the role of technology in providing quality education. Click on the link and the powerpoint will automatically download.

Learn Languages with Voice Reader app

Voice Reader app Voice Reader is a very handy app for iPhone or iPad which will enable students of French to master accent and fluency faster but at their own rate. It actually runs in 21 European languages with 32 voices. You can download voice synthesisers to run offline for 99 cents in Australia but you have access to all of them online. I downloaded André. He’s pretty nice to listen to. Students can type as much or as little text as they want and the voice will read it back to them in pretty good French. It is not perfect native speaker but it does a pretty good job. The text can be slowed down or sped up so the students are totally in control of their learning. It would be great to have the Asian languages added to Voice Reader and even our indigenous languages. It is not just a way to learn new languages, it is a way of preserving our world languages and allowing people to communicate in a variety of languages. It is a 21 Century app which promotes multilingualism in a pain free way since the student is in complete control of their learning. It also makes good use of mobile technology which so many people have these days. The last advantage I can see is that it would provide a great assistive service for those who can write but have difficult in speaking for whatever reason.

Linux Wall Wart Computer

Sheeva wall wart computer Photo: Treehugger.com That’s it! That is the tiny computer which runs on Linux and plugs into the wall. They don’t appear to be available in Australia but America has them selling for 99 dollars for the developer’s kit and 49 dollars for the wall computer. I am not going to pretend to be able to discuss this Sheeva plug adequately, but to me it is a sign of what is to come and it is exciting! They are developed by Marvell and Treehugger has a clear discussion of them. The Linux site itself has some good detail which you can follow up. To actually run it as a computer you’d need a USB vga adapter which will cost about 60 dollars and you’d need to plug in a USB hub. I know it doesn’t have as much power as a normal computer but I run Ubuntu 10.04 on an old NEC 540 Versa with only 256 Mb of RAM and it runs very efficiently. More than adequately. One of the things about the Sheeva plug is that it appeals to your imagination and so you wonder what you want to do with it. You can use it as a server, you could use it as a home security system with a web cam and you could run it as a small computer. I keep thinking there has to be a classroom use for these if they can run a whiteboard and it would be a good, viable alternative for schools which do not have a lot of money. The wall plug computers have a social justice role to play. I just love it and I want one!!

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