Ilze Duarte, a Senior Planet Tech Trainer, has been teaching for some thirty-seven years. Here she shares her thoughts about online learning for seniors….and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
In my thirty-seven years of teaching, I have always put students in groups to discuss topics and solve problems. And I have always been amazed at how many great ideas are generated each time, ideas that no one person would have come up with on their own. In the sessions I teach for Senior Planet online, I see this same rich exchange of ideas among our participants.
Online Learning goes Nationwide
Since Senior Planet transitioned from in-person to online sessions, I have had participants from all over the country, from urban, suburban, and rural areas. Some are in their 60s and 70s, others are in their 80s or 90s. They bring with them a variety of life experiences, perspectives, and attitudes about technology. Some are cautious, some are adventurous. But they all come to our sessions because they are curious about the digital world and want to be connected on the internet.
” she was hesitant to speak up in class as a young student, but now she feels free to express herself in this group because she never feels judged.”
In the Short Story Discussion Group I lead, I am moved and pleased by the bond that has formed among our group members. We listen to each other’s comments without interrupting, we ask questions, we offer our opinions freely. One of the group members, who hardly ever misses a session (as is true of the whole group), has told me she was hesitant to speak up in class as a young student, but now she feels free to express herself in this group because she never feels judged. What a remarkable change for her! And what a credit to this group of older adults who have helped create an environment in which all are safe to express themselves.
Online Learning and Tech
In the Explore Tech lectures we teach at Senior Planet, there is also time for questions and discussions. The participants always have interesting, relevant question…and some that I may not have anticipated.
Once in a session about eBay and PayPal, a participant asked me about how responsive eBay was to consumer questions. I told her I didn’t know the answer. I was about to “Google” that question when another participant unmuted herself and told us eBay had been responsive to a complaint she had. She told us her story and the outcome of her communication with eBay. What better way to answer that question than a testimonial!
“Sometimes it is not a question but a comment that enriches us all.”
Online Learning is Sharing
Sometimes it is not a question but a comment that enriches us all. In a recent session I taught about Online Shopping, a participant told us she shops online often. She encouraged the group to give it a try. She even told us about Amazon Prime Wardrobe, which allows users to order and try on different items of clothing and return what’s unwanted.
It is very rewarding to me, as a tech trainer, to see older adults engage me and the others in the group in such a generous way. Even asking questions is a generous act; you will be giving others the gift of new knowledge that you yourself are receiving.
Online Learning Tips
If you are a newcomer to our online sessions, here are a few ways you can engage with the tech trainer and others in the group:
- Don’t hesitate to ask your questions. No question is too basic or too advanced.
- If you are not comfortable unmuting yourself to ask a question, use the chat. Our tech trainers check the chat regularly during the sessions.
- If you have experience with the topics covered in the session, feel free to share it with the tech trainer and the group.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t have experience with the topic! We are all here to learn together…
…and I have been learning, too, in ways that enrich me as much as the seniors I work with.
Interested in bringing Senior Planet to your community? OATS is currently looking for organizational partners to help expand access to in-person programs across the country. Through a licensing model, partners receive extensive training and support, as well as access to Senior Planet’s award-winning curriculum. Interested organizations can visit www.oats.org/licensing to sign up for an informational session and apply to participate in the 2022-2023 pilot, currently being offered free of charge.