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Chapter 6


Scenario: Many elderly people have no skills for using modern technology and some of them might even afraid of it. In modern world there are some services that are provided mostly via technology (e.g. bank services). How could we help the elderly people to learn how to use technology that helps in everyday life? How can these elderly learners support each other in their learning process? What kinds of tasks is appropriate to provide to this kind of learner group? What special needs do they have?
Scenario as a pdf

Authors: Erkkie Haipinge, Hannes Leber, Marta Darvasi, Monika Grimstad Hafredal, Lars Alexander Holdaas, Oddvar Hungnes, Srecko Janicijevic, Alessandro Poroli, Darja Tokranova

Tutor: Terje Väljataga (Tallinn University) e-mail: terjev[at]

First Meeting: Monday 15th October at 11 am (Fin/Est) / 10 am (Nor) in



Handbook for Teachers of ICT Courses for Senior Learners


Theoretical framework

1.   Introduction

2.      Research on elderly learning of technology use

2.1 Importance of technology and motivation for learning for  the elderly

2.2 Learning barriers, special learning needs  and possible solutions

3.  Overview of pedagogical considerations

3.1       Suitable teaching approaches for elderly learners

3.1.1       Elderly learners and self-regulated learning

3.1.2     Elderly learners and collaborative learning

4.  Senior Learners and Technology: Conclusions and Outlook

5. Exercises: Apply what you learned!

5.1 Example 1: Oksana, 58

5.2 Example 2: Helena, 62

5.3 Example 3: Ulla, 72




Technology learning with elderly learners

Theoretical framework

1.   Introduction


Today people worldwide, especially in the developed nations, are living a lot longer than before due to the general improvement in life expectancy resulting from improved health conditions (Githens, 2007, p. 330). In the workplace, workers aged 50 and older are expected to make up a third of the total workforce in developed countries by the year 2050 (Lam and Chung, 2009, p. 35). Studies in the United States report a general increase in the age group of 65 years and older, with the age group of 85 years and above the fastest growing in the country (Chaffin and Harlow, 2005, p. 303).

The same trend is said to be typical of the developed world, including Europe. Statistical projections make it clear that by 2020, due to a life expectancy in Europe which is already more than eighty years, about 25% of the European population will be older than 65 years. In addition, national laws of most European countries have gradually increased the retirement age to the age of 65.This makes the elderly a significant age group whose needs, including learning needs generate special interest.


There is therefore a need to reinvent assumptions of old age, and develop environments in which the elderly can live fuller lives, be more active so as to contribute to the society. Many studies that have focused on what active ageing concur that being physically and mentally active, engaging in learning and participating in family and community life are vital components of successful ageing (Boulton-Lewis, 2010). Technology can be an important tool in active ageing such as through countering isolation by connecting elders with others. Technology can also help them keep track of events in the community, learning new skills, and make physical limitations less debilitating through increasing access to services (Alexander 2011). However, elderly use of technology, especially computers can be hindered by many factors. For example many of the older generations have not used computers in their work life and their  learning is also affected by many factors, including changes in their physical and cognitive abilities that come with aging.

This chapter addresses the question of how elderly learners can be helped to learn how to use technology by discussing reasons why it is important for them to learn; highlighting barriers to such learning; identifying elderly learners’ special learning needs; describing practical experiences illustrative of how elderly learners learn; and suggesting solutions to challenges identified by suggesting pedagogical approaches, including ways in which elderly learners can support each other in their learning process. The elderly in the context of this chapter refers to people of retirement age and above.

2.      Research on elderly learning of technology use


    2.1 Importance of technology and motivation for learning for  the elderly

Persuasive arguments in favor of learning for the elderly include lifelong learning initiatives that are said to have benefits beyond cognitive gains. According to Githens (2007), learning initiatives for the elderly help them to form social networks that have mental, emotional and physical gains. Many of the elderly lose their friends through death and are less mobile due to poor health. Accessing online courses and being part of greater learning social networks helps them to form relationships. However this can be context dependent as some elders may prefer to attend lessons in person away from home such as learning centers where they can have personal contact and engage with course facilitators and fellow learners. The mode of learning can be influenced by the level of learning that elderly learners are at, with those requiring more assistance likely to benefit from face-to-face contact courses.

Beneficiaries from computer courses include the elderly with strong ties to foreign countries or other cities as they are among the strongest users of Internet online phone calls and video telephony for purposes of keeping in touch with their children and grandchildren. Confirming this, Githens, (2007), argues that older adults’ motivation to use technology is mainly for practical reasons, like to feel part of the society, keep in touch with family, use e-commerce or to contribute to society through new careers or extend their existing/previous ones. Additionally, communicative technology helps elderly express their stories, experiences and opinions (Lam and Chung, 2009). Furthermore, through technology, the elderly may learn new skills related to health, safety, leisure, and transportation (Boulton-Lewis, 2010).

Lam and Chung (2009) recommend mobile learning as a mode of learning, which they claim offers  special opportunities for their flexibility and portability. They enable usage in less formal learning environments with less requirement for direct instructional classroom settings, while multimedia capabilities such as text, images, videos and podcasts facilitate the diversity of learning content. The choice of learning solutions is naturally dependent upon the learning needs and their context.


As individuals age, their motivation to engage in learning ICT skills change. However it is important to distinguish different age categories within the elderly population with the younger among the older elderly likely to still be working and thus interested in improving their job-related knowledge and competitiveness. This younger elderly group may have fewer learning barriers due to their intrinsic motivation connected to their current work ambitions as well as from better technological skills resulting from regular use of computers in their current workplaces.

As people move past the age of retirement, the goals they pursue are more related to remaining active and doing something meaningful, such as engaging in social interaction (see Fig. 1 in annex). One way of remaining active is counteracting the effects of a declining memory by keeping their brains active (Boulton-Lewis 2010). Declining memory also influences pedagogical approaches such that notes help elderly learners to remember the meaning of terms, areas of the screen that had to be clicked and steps to complete different actions (Sayago et al, 2012). Use of notes as a learning strategy has been observed  from an elderly computer course in Finland where the use of paper based notes was justified on the basis that elderly learners were less comfortable with reading from computer screens.

Use of paper-based notes


2.2 Learning barriers, special learning needs  and possible solutions

There are many barriers to elderly learning of the use of technology. These are presented here along with solutions of overcoming them.


Learning barrier/Needs

Description of barrier

Description of solution


Societal attitudes towards senior citizens They involve stereotyping of elderly as rigid and resistant to learning. Though a personality characteristic, it gets generalised across the whole group. As “a systematic stereotyping and pervasive negative view of older persons” (Palmore as cited in Chaffin and Harlow, 2005, p. 303) it is called ageism and can affect the elderly’s self-efficacy. Identification of individual differences among the elderly learners and and treating them according to their unique learning challenges. Important to avoid making generalised value judgement about all learners, be it based on preconceptions or observations of the group.

The Instructor should be careful not to enforce existing preconceptions that many older people hold that technology is for men. Studies have shown that women respond well to challenge and realize the benefits of technology, welcoming it and learning eagerly (Rosenthal 2008). Teachers should thus keep in mind to encourage women in the right way.


Elder's own attitude towards technology - Computer anxiety Computer anxiety is manifested in behaviour such as avoidance of computers and the place where they are located, excessive caution when learning computer skills, and/or negative remarks about computer (Namlu as cited in Chaffin and Harlow, 2005). When talking about learning technology, the low self-efficacy beliefs of the elderly regarding the use of technology should be considered (Purdie & Boulton-Lewis 2003). Senior citizens need reassurance about their ability to learn new technological skills through emotional, social and personal support. sEMrcG5kZAqNucsrx9SntbCPk8zUgGPQP7S9n0OQ
               Personal support through the instructor
Learners’ “control over goals, ownership, fun, communication, learning-in-context, and continuity between contexts” (Lam & Chung 2009, p. 39) can be enhanced through involving learners in course design and relating learning to their immediate needs. Educators should try to individualize the learning plan, make it fit to the background, need and lifestyle of each student, include the elderly student in goal setting.

Chaffin and Harlow (2005) suggest overcoming fear of technology through emphasising the benefits it offers such as staying independent, finding information that is relevant to the senior learner (e.g. Apps reporting weather conditions) and keeping in touch with friends and family, while unravelling the negative myths and views they hold towards technology.

It is important to start simple and increase complexity and number of applications used: once the senior student is confident in the use of technology, more applications and technologies can be adopted with greater ease. The teacher should find ways to show the senior student that he knows the principles of this technology from his previous experience or common knowledge (using metaphors, e.g windows start icon - content button). Also, the use of especially designed e-mail solutions provides a simple start. One example is

Another strategy could be to use applications containing activities the seniors already know, like games. Many classis games (descriptions in English language) can be found here:

Helping the students follow their own progress also helps them keep motivated and see that they are succeeding and what they will be capable of in the future.


Cultural barrier inherent in technology: language Although many software come along with language options, this is not the case for all languages. Language can be particularly a challenge in developing as devices, applications and especially the Internet resources are mostly in English by default,leaving non-anglophone senior citizens handicapped.

Learning materials need to be translated and appropriate language options used for hardware like keyboards, software like touch keyboards and operating systems, as well as online environments, among others, is of big importance.

Instructors should make sure that all the computers used in instruction run an operating system in the learner’s mother tongue or second foreign language, if that is impossible.

Software keyboards
Hardware keyboards assistant
Translating the keyboard

               Example for Instructional Material 1

                           Example for Instructional Material 2


Cognitive decline - memory Due to aging, the cognitive processes of the elderly are negatively affected. They are often thought of as being slow and have memory challenges whereby they find it difficult to memorise large amounts of information or procedures. Additionally,, studies have shown that older people are weary of making errors, and that causes them to slow down. Elderly learners require much more repetition and practice for new skills to become automatic (Bean & Laven 2003). Educators need to repeat messages frequently, talk more slowly, provide breaks during lectures (10-15’ teaching sessions).     Encourage older adults to take notes, and ask questions. Taking notes is a way of translating the visual information they get into words, a process that helps them remember the steps longer, and understand better. Ask students to show what they have learned, set aside time for discussions where misunderstanding can be revealed and corrected
Due to the fear of making errors requires educators to have extremely good people skills (SINTEF).


Sensory decline - auditory and visual Visual and auditory challenges make the elderly slow at completing visual searches (Burda 2011) and to follow lesson presentations respectively. Reading problems mostly result from vision rather than cognitive decline

Degenerating sight and hearing all have to be taken into consideration when designing education for older learners. To accommodate hearing difficulties, educators should ensure that explanations are both verbalised in a loud and slow-paced manner and written down to combine text with sound. Key considerations are simplicity, clarity, consistency, bold size & slower speed.

Combining written and verbal messagesyWYjl99AQfsra5w52bU_22i1HFtYnhBdNfcymSwu
 Use of mixed media

Hardware such as keyboards should have boldly embossed keypads that give clear auditory feedback when pressed, while font on monitors should be enlarged and given clear contrast.


Psychomotor decline Physical problems include reduced mobility and eye-hand coordination. Mobility may affect elderly learners’ movement and levels of comfort. Degenerated fine motor skills, their poor control and coordination makes it difficult for elderly learners to maintain eye-hand coordination and carry out tasks with their hands and fingers, such as using a computer mouse.

Educators should take a positive approach and focus on what the elders can learn and not what they can’t do, while emphasising how they benefit (Boulton-Lewis 2010). User interface should be made elderly friendly by simplifying it, such as using touch input actions that are simple and straightforward as opposed to complex click input. If the use of mouse cannot be avoided, time should be allotted for practicing clicks. There apps and flash games that serve this purpose, for example here is one in Finnish:

Also, there exists computer equipment especially designed for the elderly: (“Telikin - The world’s easiest computer”)


Technology accessibility and technical challenges Elderly learners lack the ability to use computers which is sometimes not age-related but rather stemming from their lack of experience with technology (Sayago et al). They also require much more repetition and practice for new skills to become automatic (Bean & Laven 2003) Educators need to be patient and offer hands-on learning activities. Skills that are taken for granted in younger adults should never be assumed as such. Individually tailored training schedules should also be designed due to unique technical challenges and factors such as individual health issues (SINTEF)

As a practical solution in the implementation of the course, all computers should be switched on and set to show the same starting page for everybody (ed Windows Desktop). Also, the instructor should use simple language with few new words - saying, for example “Open the internet!” rather than the browser.


Limited past experience with technology Limitation in past experience with technology is due to its rapid evolution. Past education levels and  social class may influence elder learners’ level of technological literacy as they may determine whether learners had used technology in their past work settings or not, or whether they have or lack access to technology at home Educators for the elderly should not assume that all elderly learners are at a similar level of learning. Prior knowledge should always be checked by the educator and not taken for granted. A safe learning environment should be created where the elderly are  explicitly be encouraged to pose all their questions and the instructor makes sure on a regular basis that all students are following. In general, a patient, encouraging atmosphere should be established, avoiding to rush through the content.

When questions arise, the instructor should offer basic explanations at the current level of the student (e.g. “What is Flash Player?” - “You need it to show little games or videos, you need to have it on the computer to see some moving images”).
I Limited knowledge about online privacy and reliability of information Limited exposure to computers can cause senior citizens to have a fake sense of safety online. They need to learn to protect their privacy in this new environment. It might be difficult for them to realize that their identity/money is not necessarily safe, even though they are physically in their own homes. They might also have problems assessing how reliable certain pieces of information are on the internet, they tend to trust written data,making them easy targets for different scams. Educators should stress the ways how privacy online differs from real life, and show that as everyone can add content, it shouldn’t be assumed that the information is to be trusted. They should be explained where to find reliable information, and how to check if they are using a secure connection, what spam and phishing is.  

3.  Overview of pedagogical considerations




3.1       Suitable teaching approaches for elderly learners

Older people need different learning approaches than the younger. However, we must keep in mind that there is not one approach that fits for the whole group of people older than 65 years old. Here, as in any other learning group, each individual have its own basis. Thus the challenge is to find learning approaches that takes this into consideration and appeal to the broad group of elderly users. It is also crucial to remember how aging affects learning skills and that elderly often relate to technology in quite other ways than younger users that have a lot more experience with using technology.

Some of the most important aspects when teach new technology to elderly users is:

  • Personalized learning
  • Social learning together in networks
  • The possibility to learn anytime and anywhere
  • Finding everyones personal motivation

In addition to these points focusing on how to make a good learning atmosphere, there is also some more practical actions that should be taken to make the learning easier and more efficient. Below you can listen to a short interview with an experienced teacher in teaching technology to elderly where she talks about the realities of teaching seniors.



Learner identities are initially often fragile, if appropriately supported they can become strong – motivation and personal support is a main factor to be taken into account in material design, activity and learning strategy selection, group forming and tutoring style. Through personalisation, more friendly and supportive interfaces and materials for the learning process can be achieved.
Because elderly know  in what situations they need and want to use technology already at the start of their studies, linking learning to real-life is crucial. Sayago et al (2012) presents some of the main strategies that can help facilitate learning technology. These include turning daily activities into learning activities, learning collaboratively with known peers, putting their memory into the world (adopting appropriate memory aids, ie. taking notes) and capitalising on their life experience.

3.1.1       Elderly learners and self-regulated learning

Adults in general, and also old adults are aware of what they need to learn, and take responsibility for their own learning.  They are eager to learn what they need, but in some cases only to the extent to solve a problem that they encountered. Elderly people have a great deal of experience that can either help or hinder the learning process, but has to be taken into consideration when planning (Boulton-Lewis 2010). Elderly learners are said to have a strong preference for part-time study, and this is especially significant as seniors grow older. They prefer individualized approach to learning, which is especially important as life and work experiences can differ greatly in elderly learner's groups. They also like self-learning or individual study.

Motivation and confidence are critical to learning at any age, and they are particularly so as people become older. Elderly are concerned about making mistakes, which is a strong motivating factor, and helps them spend the extra time they need to master new skills.

3.1.2     Elderly learners and collaborative learning

Many older people have not had prior experience in collaborative learning. To ensure collaborative learning for older adults, it is critical to develop effective strategies that can produce results.


Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

However, collaborative learning requires a dedication of time to learning, which in many situations was perceived as a challenge because rigid timetables and exams are unlikely to fit in with the lives of senior citizens, most of whom are retirees or still active workforce, grandparents and learners, all at the same time (Sayago). For this reason it is important to consider the implications of collaborative learning in elderly learning. Since intergenerational learning has  been successful with children helping older people to master necessary technological skills (Morgan, 2005), and group teaching helps some seniors increase their  problem solving abilities, various collaborative learning strategies should be considered.
People feel much better when they can share their thoughts and doubts with each other. While in perfect scenario a student can ask the teacher about everything without feeling shy, in reality this rarely occurs.The study of Xie (2012) showed that collaborative learning can be a useful method also in the case of older learners, regardless of the group composition. Sharing notes with peers, explaining to each other has also been shown to be a common way of collaborating.

4.  Senior Learners and Technology: Conclusions and Outlook

New technologies offer many interesting perspectives for senior or elderly learners. For educators, it is important to assist older adults in learning to interact effectively with new technologies. The following guidelines can help in focussing your attention
(Hickman, Rogers & Fisk, 2007, p. 83)

  • Evaluate the task demands
  • Specify the ultimate task goals
  • Identify the relevant system components and understanding their interrelationship
  • Guide the learner’s attention in a way that challenges him or her to process and relate the information but at the same time provides support for learning

Learning should be organised into small units with frequent reinforcement to motivate learners continuously. Learning activities should be hands-on, involving drill and practice, while frequent summaries of work covered promotes retention.   

The learning goals and design should be determined by the needs of the elderly and what they want to achieve with technology. For example if social isolation that threatens their physical and psychological well-being is the problem, learning should be directed towards enhancing communication and increasing contact with others. For example, using social networking sites can have many benefits of elderly: it can help them become socially activity, stay in touch with family, friends and educators, and thus it can become a useful tool for collaborative learning at later stages of the learning process.

Some examples of online environments designed especially for the elderly (all in English) can be found here:

EGju1mq9B_OVEluIwVWYAhRKcM7pThyUlcY7mYln (“Our mission is to empower the online senior community and have fun doing it!”)

iJxEjveANO0EUsVvXdDxtHA7W1w_PKbm0tTH2JTI (“A place to goof off with your friends, meet new people, show off all the stuff you've just spent the best part of your life collecting.”)

wRhRyMcexOz3vFpu-4jOOrPSzdKa17x6EeQbE3Li (“When you've already lived a bit and gets older, you know what sort of companion competes you. In our senior chatroom we help seniors to find their friends that make their Third Age their best.”)

Digital Games are another useful application in making sense of the use of computers in learning for the elderly. Today, there are already some games on the market that show very popular amongst senior citizens - find a list here: and have a look at one of the major sellers in the field:


It is very well possible that in the future the development of games designed specifically for the elderly will grow into a significant market, as both the number of elderly people and the experience of those elderly with digital games will be growing.

3D Virtual Worlds can also be useful tools with a big future in supporting both collaborative and individual learning, also with elderly users. They can potentially offer a rich, familiar experience, where the user is given opportunities to perform tasks or acquire experiences that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve due to physical or cognitive limitations. Remote social interaction and collaboration may be made possible over a network connection.

As digital games, virtual worlds could provide elderly users with benefits such as heightened well-being through entertainment value, increased self-esteem in using technology, increased sensor-motor function and potentially boosted cognitive function(Wijnand IJsselsteijn et. al). Through the use of additional peripherals, they could also help users in rehabilitation by providing feedback to their efforts even when no therapist is present (Felix Kamieth et. al). Interestingly, a virtual reality game was also shown to help reduce perceived pain during medical operations, in particular with elderly patients(Sam R. Sharar et. al). Their social aspect can also help relieve the sense of isolation in cases of reduced social network and mobility.

As tools for learning, virtual worlds can offer numerous useful and sometimes unique features: The interface can be highly multi-modal and configurable, supporting multiple input methods and presenting information in multiple forms, redundantly if necessary. For example, a lecture could be held using text, sign language and voice. It is possible to arrange simplified learning situations in the world, providing knowledge that can later be applied in real-world scenarios(Felix Kamieth et. al). Most interesting is perhaps the opportunities for communication. In interacting with avatars for other users in the virtual world, one gets a shared sense of time and space without the need to move physically when this is prohibitive. As such, they provide a framework for both staying socially active(W. A. Sawyer et. al) and seeking assistance from other users in learning to use computers.

However, virtual worlds are not currently widely adopted by the elderly, and they  often exhibit usability issues which impact elderly users more than the younger users; Ideally, the system should have a multi-modal interface with multiple input methods(W. A. Sawyerr et. al), and an easily configurable interface with features such as increased contrast, font size and zooming in on elements. It should probably not require fast response times or very precise movements(Wijnand IJsselsteijn et. al). But if the usability needs are met, then these systems are a definite possibility in education of elderly users in the field of computers.

Indeed, attempts have been made to design 3D virtual environments specifically for older learners, such as 3rd LIFE ( and Oasis Foundation Virtual World Project (

5. Exercises: Apply what you learned!             

Now, we want to involve you in confronting you with some real-life examples, in order to apply the information and best practice encountered above.
Please read one of the three real-life examples carefully and answer the questions below, browsing again through the content presented above to give reasons for your answers. There is three examples, you can choose to tackle them all at once or revisit the handbook when you feel it is appropriate.

5.1 Example 1: Oksana, 58

The first example presented in order to exemplify the situations in which the above-mentioned topics become relevant, is set in the context of home lessons for people who want to learn how to draw on the computer and in the context of general computer skills teaching.
One of the elderly students is Oksana, a woman of 58 years who wants to become a photo-stock agency contributor. Oksana is good at academical drawing so she didn't need to be taught how to draw. She needed only one certain skill — how to draw using the computer.
Therefore, not only does she need to learn how to use computer in general but also to achieve some certain level of skills in graphics program. As many people of her age, she is very unsure about her capability to gain new skills and if she will be able to draw on the computer in the end of the course.

      Use of Apple Macintosh Platform

As the learning environment, the Apple Macintosh platform is chosen because it seems to be less puzzling and more intuitive for beginners. The instructor explains the main differences between Mac and Windows, and to her surprise, the student started to feel comfortable in Mac environment really fast. It was a bit more challenging when they went further and started to learn the drawing itself, using a digital tablet for drawing, Wacom Intuos 4, which allows for the simulation of drawing movements and hand draw in Adobe environments.



  Using digital tablets for drawing


The technical requirements of photo banks made it necessary to use Adobe products in order to create the acceptable file formats and contribute them to agencies. However, both Photoshop and Illustrator have very complicated interfaces, stuffed with different menus, windows and buttons. The interface confused the student even before she starts to use it and the instructor spends some time explaining there is nothing to worry about and that they will gradually start learning both programs without digging too deep into preferences and any advanced features.
It took us two months of two-hours sessions per week to achieve a required level and in the end of the course Oksana was able to create digital drawings in vector environment of Adobe Illustrator using both her knowledge and notebook with notes.

Look at the example in detail.
What ideas that you have learned in the sections above apply to this learning situation?
What are the challenges and the opportunities that the instructor faces in this situation?
Evaluate the approaches and teaching or learning strategies that the instructor uses: what is well-done? What would you do differently?    


5.2 Example 2: Helena, 62

In the second example, the student is Helena, who is 62 years old and less sure about her potential success. She knows nothing about computers and has the feeling that IT technology is not for her.
So, the instructor’s goal is to introduce Helena to computers and help her develop some basic skills: read, write and send e-mails, attaching pictures, googling and surfing the web, using instant messengers in order to communicate with her grandchildren and relatives.

Helena also wants to be able to interact with other elderly people on related forums and to start blogging, but the two of them consider this as optional and decide to concentrate on more basic things first.
For the learning process, they chose the Windows-based environment, simply because Helena was given a Windows-driven laptop for learning as a gift from her grandchildren. It turns out to be a bit less intuitive than the Mac environment and the instructor spends some additional time explaining the meaning of pop up windows and other issues of this platform.
It takes about three weeks of 1.5 hour session twice a week to achieve the required level. While Helena manages to learn blogging and forum interaction as well, she never actually started blogging. She reads a lot of newsblogs though, so in the instructor’s view, it was maybe not a learning problem but rather personal choice.

Look at the example in detail.
What ideas that you have learned in the sections above apply to this learning situation?
What are the challenges and the opportunities that the instructor faces in this situation?
Evaluate the approaches and teaching or learning strategies that the instructor uses: what is well-done? What would you do differently?

5.3 Example 3: Ulla, 72

In the third example, Ulla is taking part in a seniors’ ICT course. She is one of 11 students, and this is her third lesson. She has never used internet before, and she is enthusiastic about learning to use the computer, but she encounters many problems. She finds that it’s difficult to keep her fingers apart on the mouse, and when she is using the mouse she gets easily disoriented. She looks at her hand, to see if it’s in the right place, and then she has problems finding the cursor on the screen. She always has to lean very close to be able to read what is on the screen, and if she makes one little mistake, the computer already does something else than she wanted.

Finding the correct solution takes time, and if the others have already moved on to the next task, she feels helpless, and does not know how to continue. It seems to her that every computer is different, and these slight differences often take her away from the main task. She had a different homepage set in her browser, and she thought it was the wrong program, so she didn’t continue the task.

The english writing on the screen and the keyboard is really confusing her, she feels that she has to learn a new language besides learning to use a new tool. It is also confusing her  that her grandchildren are using different words than her teacher when explaining the computer to her. The teacher makes it easy to follow, she talks about opening the internet, and using the fox-program, but when she asks about those things  to her grandson, he just laughs, and uses different, strange sounding words. For this reason she rarely practices at home, but the teacher opens the room an hour early each week before the class, so she can go there and practice. However, this way she always gets really tired until the end of the lesson.

Leaning close to read the text

Look at the example in detail.
What ideas that you have learned in the sections above apply to this learning situation?
What are the challenges and the opportunities that the instructor faces in this situation?
Evaluate the approaches and teaching or learning strategies that the instructor uses: what is well-done? What would you do differently?



We would like to thank Tiina Laaksonen, the teacher of the senior’s ICT course at Oulun Kansalaisopisto (Oulu, Finland), for allowing us to benefit from her experience and expertise in teaching elderly by welcoming us to observe her lessons and answering our many questions.



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