December 19, 2013

The technology myth: Why you can be an over 35 tech wiz [by Sue Bell]

A common misconception about technology is that young adults and teenagers are more proficient users than those over 35.

The technology age, it appears, has bypassed Baby Boomers and Generation X.

As a technology teacher, however, I take great pleasure in dispelling this myth.

In particular, working with teenagers gives me insight into how and why they use technology.

What I’ve noticed is that teens and young adults excel in some aspects of technology. But their knowledge and expertise is sadly lacking in other key areas.

Undoubtedly, teens and young adults are amazing texters. I simply can’t text like they do and I’m all fingers and thumbs. This can be explained, in part, by a research study that found texting has altered the teenage brain so their fingers have more dexterity than an adult’s. They can text a coherent message via satellite in the time I spend dithering around trying to insert a full stop.

Also, their mobile phone relationship is highly personalised.

Phones are their lifeline and they use them as watches, calenders, communicators and to organise their daily lives. The installed apps can guide, amuse or entertain them non-stop so their attachment to the device becomes all consuming.

This mobile phone obsession rarely extends to those over 40.

This is because older adults have difficulty understanding the key role a mobile phone plays with the younger generation, which is as a social networking tool.

Despite this flurry of technological activity, teenagers are not necessarily high-tech geniuses. Most of them are watching videos or sending messages, which require little skill.

The more challenging aspects of technology — such as using software — still need to be taught.

I believe technology efficiency requires three key skills, regardless of age:

·         Interest;
·         Aptitude; and
·         Practice

Interest: If you have an interest in something then you pursue it. To understand how to use software you need to read books, watch tutorials, join a class or find some other means of tuition. If you are keen to enhance your technology skills, then nothing prevents the joy of learning.

Aptitude:  Having taught many people to use various software applications, I’ve concluded that some people have more aptitude than others. Why are some people better basketball players than others? Why are others superior cooks? What makes a better driver, cyclist, swimmer or writer?

It is aptitude.

We cannot be good at everything but we can excel at some things. People who enjoy using technology have an aptitude for it. They will take risks, play and experiment with software, tinker when they get the chance and, most importantly, they rarely panic if something unexpected occurs.

Practice: I’ve taught software for years, but if I don’t keep practising then I forget what I’ve learned. For example, I teach the Adobe software Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Indesign and Premiere. If I go too long without teaching this software, however, I start to forget things quickly.

The only way to stay on top is to practice. The more you practice the better you get. The better you get the more you practice.

It is never too late to enhance your technology skills. You may find you have an aptitude for it.

You will also find that age is irrelevant.

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