Life-long Learner While Being Tech Slow
by Ather Shabbar
Wicked problems are those without a definitive answer. They can be one of the trickiest problems since everyone’s situation is unique to them. To help guide you we collected stories from students in similar situations, their advice to you and how they overcame it.
This is a story about a mature student returning to university and struggling to adapt to new technology.
The Wicked Problem
I am returning to post secondary education at the age of 60 after taking early retirement from my career. My employer has offered an attractive early retirement package which afforded me to pursue a graduate program. My goal was to be a life-long learner and study subject areas that are of interest to me; i.e., organizational learning and culture change.
I found myself among students that are much younger who use their electronic devices with a high level of proficiency. Most students in my classes were about the age of my children.
I also found that, as an older adult, my biological needs were also different than other students. For example, my hearing and sight were not as sharp as they were when I was younger. My studying habits were also different than younger students; i.e., I took notes using a note book and pen, not using on-line tools such as Evernote.
At work I was accustomed to calling the help desk when I ran into problems with technology. There was instant help available to resolve the problem most of the time, and on a rare occasion, tech help came to my office to resolve the problem I was experiencing. This sort of service was not available to me at university.
My computer skills were limited to email and Microsoft Word. Occasionally, I used PowerPoint to develop presentations. I was not familiar with such e-tools as Google Docs, Survey Monkey, Eventbrite, or the Adobe Suite apps. These were commonly used apps. Other students “wizzed by” in the use of such technological tools, while I often found them very frustrating parts of reentry into academic life. I found that it took me much longer to complete assignments and prepare for classes. This was a major source of frustration for me and much more challenging than completing course work and assignments. I often asked my professors to grant me extensions to hand in my assignments or projects.
To add to the frustration, I was using a new computer with operating system I was not familiar with: a Macbook. This was a mistake. My home computer was old and was the size of a Buick. I had been using the Microsoft operating system.
I also found that the university IT department was not helpful. They often didn’t help to resolve the problem I experienced. They closed the “ticket” before the problem was addressed. I found the school administrators treated a mature student just like any other seventeen year old student, sometimes with a condescending tone.
Finding a Solution
I sought help from another student who understood my frustration and showed me how to use available technology for my studies. I didn’t want to keep asking for help from other students knowing they have their own workload to manage. I slowly learned to use Google Search to learn apps and functions. I also began to use Google Scholar, accessible documents, etc. This was slow and often frustrating, and it took me a long time to get used to it.
I decided to live with the circumstances and took a different perspective, which included:
Recognize it will take longer to get through the course work. Live with the reality I was facing. Know that learning technology will be your friend. The more I used an app, the more confident I became.
Make better use of time management tools. Allocate time to complete the course work as well as learning new technologies.
Ask for help from others who seem to be willing to help. Many people were not suitable for a mentoring arrangement.
When experiencing bad service from the school’s IT help, bring the matter up with senior administrators.
Seek help from the school when possible.
There is a quite a heavy burden on learners to “figure out” the technology, and often little support for doing so. And while this may be exacerbated for mature students who are coming back into a far more technological student experience than that in their past, all learners will face this “hidden curriculum” of tools they just need to figure out how to use. Recognizing the environment, culture, and practices you are entering is going to take agility on your part.
Shabbar, A. (2021, October 7). Life-long Learner While Being Tech Stupid. Liberated Learners. https://wicked.liberatedlearner.ca/learner/life-long-learner-while-being-tech-stupid/