“There’s an app for that” has become a common phrase of the modern world. We seem to believe that life can be improved and any problem solved if we can just stuff it into a computer.
While that promise may be a bit exaggerated, there is no question that technology can help seniors accomplish life goals — staying connected, monitoring health and medication, summoning help, even remembering where you parked the car. And it can provide instant answers to any question … as long as you’re careful about how you ask and who is answering.
There are lots of resources to help you learn as much as you’d like about this large and often confusing arena of modern life.
Local classes and workshops
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Illinois (OLLI) offers four- and eight-week courses in the fall and spring taught by distinguished faculty from the University of Illinois, other colleges and universities in the region, and community members. OLLI membership includes one free course per year; additional 8-week courses are $40 each, and 4-week courses are $20 each.
A recent course, Computer Programming for the Kids in All of Us, explored the basic concepts underlying computer programming using a language called Scratch, which has been successfully used in teaching programming even in elementary schools. While this software allows easy animations, game creation, and story-telling, it is sophisticated enough to create fun interactive programs for students to share with each other, friends, and the kids in their lives.
Champaign Public Library offers a variety of workshops and services. Some workshops are designed for those just getting started with technology. Others focus on specialty software such as Adobe Illustrator.
The library houses four Creation Stations with graphic design software. They also lend out tablets loaded with content for four weeks at a time. You can even book an appointment with a librarian to learn more about downloading e-books, audiobooks, and magazines, as well as other digital services.
Parkland College Computer Technology Center allows you to learn computers at your own pace with the school’s self-directed, open-entry/open-exit format. Enroll in a CTC course and complete coursework at any time during the first 11 weeks of the semester. (You’ll need to complete all coursework by the date designated as the last day of class each semester to earn credit.) You can take classes all online, all on campus, or a combination of both.
Typical offerings generally include keyboarding (which we used to call typing), an introduction to Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Access) and an introduction to Google’s Gmail, GoogleDocs, Blogger, Chrome, Maps and more.
GCFGlobal offers an extensive catalog of free tutorials on a wide range of topics. Supported by the Goodwill Community Foundation, the site will introduce you to computers, email, Internet basics, digital skills, photos and graphics, social media, and common office software.
Techboomers has more than 100 free courses with thousands of step-by-step tutorials and informational articles that can help you navigate the Internet’s most popular websites and apps — social media, on-line dating, on-line shopping, video and image sharing, entertainment sites, research tools, even an understandable explanation of what the Internet is and how it works.
And don’t forget the family
Schools begin to teach computer programming in the third or fourth grade. By middle school, kids are forming their own social media chat groups with friends and classmates. Homework assignments are given and assignments submitted on-line. Tips about smart phone features and apps are regular topics of conversation. They know this stuff.
So if you need help, ask the kids!