Overcoming technology intimidation

A week before I start a new "Discover Digital Literacy!" program, I meet with each incoming student for an one-on-one assessment. My goals are to potentially find a common denominator among the students so I can customize and tailor the 16-class curriculum. Even when there are no common denominators identified, I'll have an opportunity to know them better and analyze the collected data appropriately.

Although there are at least three different definitions to what "digital divide" means, "society's lack of knowledge on how to make use of the information and communication tools once they exist within a community" (Wikipedia) is what I hear often. The good news is that when I meet with the students again before graduation, that perceived lack of knowledge or intimidation has all but dissipated from their attitude toward the information and communication tools of the digital world. Their attitude is more curious about technology than being intimidated by it.

Contrary to the theorems that one should have mastered after taking a calculus class, digital literacy does not have such quantifiable or measurable objectives. We can't evaluate someone as possessing baseline knowledge on how to make use of the information and communication tools, aka digital literacy, just because the individual tweets on the social media platform "X" (formerly Twitter) or attends a Zoom meeting. The knowledge of how to utilize any single video conferencing platform, for example, is a transferable skill whether using Zoom, WebEx, or Meet is used.

I often use the example of domestic and foreign cars to bring this point across during the program. The four tires, steering wheel, gas, and brake pedals are in the same location regardless of the car's make or model. What's different are things like controls for the entertainment system and other "nonessentials" that don't interfere with the proven utility of a car. If you drive a Ford Taurus at home but while on vacation your rental is a Toyota Camry, even though you may be unfamiliar at first as to which button to push to turn on the air conditioning, I reckon you will drive off the Hertz parking lot at the airport sooner than later.

When conducting research to buy your first smartphone/tablet, you typically find article after article purporting to why you should buy into the Apple ecosystem by buying an iPhone/iPad or nudging you to buy Samsung Galaxy/Tab or Google Pixel/Pixel Tablet that orbit within Google's ecosystem. But the truth is, many popular apps exist in both ecosystems and the functionality of those apps are similar/same once an app is opened in either ecosystem.

Getting a smartphone/tablet that is appropriate for you based on your needs and wants – such as size, price, and other essential features – should be your priority rather than belonging to a certain team. When apps you use are standardized whether it's an iPhone/iPad or Android smartphone/tablet, and the nonessentials are obviously different, you'll get used to doing things on the device of your choice in no time flat.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 15, Issue 16, Posted 9:09 AM, 09.06.2023