Ask a Librarian: Older person wanting to learn about tech

screenshot of the Yahoo Internet Life web site from 2002

Subtitled: What’s the Yahoo! Internet Life for this generation?

From a friend: A nice older lady asked for advice on keeping up with technology and the kids. Are there any resources you’d recommend that I can in turn recommend to her? Web pages, books, etc?

That’s super challenging because some of it depends on what level she is at already.

  • Online or offline information?
  • Is she in an existing community?
  • What’s her level of understanding? (for some people you have to overcome some pretty serious “I am an idiot” intertia, for others, not so much)

If she just wants to learn about her own technology I often suggest dummies guides or a few “for seniors” books that her library might have. GFC Learn Free has some great online tutorials as does Lynda.com (now owned by LinkedIn, UGH but that’s just a you+me complaint I think, most people don’t care). Also, of course, check out if there are classes at the local library.

If she’s just curious “What’s new in tech this week” she could do worse than AARP. I thought they had a “what’s new in tech” podcast and I guess they don’t? They do have this landing page which would be good, some older people don’t like AARP (can’t blame them, some of their stuff is annoying) but if she’s already in that zone, it’s a good one.

One group that does an good job for a specific niche is AAA for road/travel stuff. Their magazine is nice and readable but will also talk about apps and tools for traveling and I’ve always appreciate that. Same thing with Kiplingers for money stuff. I don’t know why I assume older people want “magazines” but that is what my mom liked. Yahoo used to have a great magazine that would highlight new tech trends and I think we all miss it. Wired is really not it and I don’t think there’s another one that does what the Yahoo mag did.

Podcasts are places a lot of people get information (I’ve never really made the jump) but they have some trusted brands. I think the big deal is convincing people that it’s just like listening to the radio which it can be but there are some hurdles first.
This NPR podcast covers “the kids” though it’s more geared towards parenting. NPR also has this one but I am more shruggo on it.
If she’s already using some news platform (Reddit, Google, I know I know) showing her how to get the “tech” section of those can be useful. Like Google News has a technology section and I find it good for skimming what’s going on lately. Reddit’s ELI5 is great for basic explanations of stuff as is Simple Wikipedia (Wikipedia written for about a third grader but you don’t have to tell her)
Hope this is helpful. I suspect there is probably a better place to go (I’ll ask people at drop-in time) but it’s so far outside of my wheelhouse I don’t know about it anymore. Cheers and happy autumn

Ask A Librarian: Hard Drive Cleanup for Macs?

screenshot from Disk Inventory X

 

I am looking for someone who can help me find and clear out excess data on one of my internal drives to free up space…

[While I am happy consulting, a lot of times if people know how to download, install and run software, they may not need my help. Someone emailed to ask about cleaning up his Mac’s hard drive. Here is my advice.]

The tool I usually use for identifying “What is taking up all the space?” is a free tool called Disk Inventory X which you can get at this link (click the upper right button to download, where it says  8.3 MB)

http://www.derlien.com/downloads/index.html

You may have to follow these instructions to open an application from an unknown developer. When you install and run it, it can give you an idea of what is taking up the space and where it is. Usually for a lot of people the answer is pretty straightforward like “Music” or “Old movies” or “Photos that you also have in iCloud.” In fact, a lot of times syncing iCloud stuff when you take a lot of photos is the thing filling up people’s hard drives. The #2 thing is old backups that are stored somewhere on the hard drive that they moved there when they got a new computer but never investigated. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Hard Drive Cleanup for Macs?”

Ask A Librarian: Practical advice for my parent’s computer?

an image showing me interacting with my mom over Skypeliveporn

From a friend’s email: My parent has become increasingly befuddled by things in older age, especially computers. I think the main problem is that everything offers way too much functionality, and they find it overwhelming and confusing. They are definitely confused by things updating and changing layouts and such. But they are also confused by long-standing things like tabs and new windows – when I went to help sort their laptop recently I found 78 Safari windows active, all opened to the same Yahoo Mail account. They had no idea. Are there any tools that you know of (hopefully for Mac) that maybe “simplify” things somehow? Or maybe an entirely different OS?

I feel like the Mac is usually the best option for older people if they want to use a computer and not a tablet. Tablets do solve some of these issues, but cause other ones. At the same time, I agree, I see my landlady’s computer like this all the time. And part of it is… maybe it’s okay to have it be weird?

One of the things I’ve been trying to get my landlady to do is turn the computer off every night. And then I set up her browser to not open all the old tabs (one of the culprits) and just open to her email. So when she opens it that day, there’s only so messed up it can get before she turns it off again and then… new start. And I think part of it all is that some people are just more… derailed by things. And so some of it is just “Well things change a lot, you do not have to like it (I sure don’t) but lets’ figure out how to get you to your email….” that sort of thing. Sometimes you have to let yourself be comfortable with someone else’s discomfort and just step them through how to get where they want to be.

Some people have found it easier to just get their email delivered via Mac’s Mail program. I think it creates more problems than it solves, honestly but it’s an option. But yeah, I have some people who
have been coming to drop-in time for over a decade and no matter what new tech they get they always sort of…. fail to learn how it works and then bitch or whine that it’s hard. Which, hey, those feelings are real and I can sympathize with them. But also realize that for whatever reason, absent any mental health issues, this is the way they are choosing to interact with it. There are some great “Missing manual” books for the Mac that can help explain things. But this is only good for people who are okay deputizing themselves to learn this stuff. The line I use a lot lately is: there are some people who demand lists when we try to give them flow charts. And you can’t learn to effectively operate a computer with a list, not anymore.

It might be helpful to hook them up with a local person who could swing by once a month and make sure stuff was basically working. I don’t know if you do this job but I feel like this is a great niche type job. One hour tune-ups. Don’t cost a lot but just swoop in, do software updates, make sure nothing is out of control, Flash is working nothing sketchy is going on, swoop out. If there’s a local senior center and/or library and they use a laptop, that can be a good place to send them. Otherwise, setting up Skype or Facetime to do desktop sharing and you can swoop in yourself to help with some of this. It’s always hardest with parent/kids. I always thought a good idea would be for people to ‘trade parents” with each other and like, I would have your parent with stuff and you could help my mom (RIP) with her stuff.

Ask a librarian: How do I learn tech skills in a fun and interesting way?

One of the things I do a lot lately is write email to people who ask me librarian-type questions. Sometimes the answers are more widely applicable and I figured I should note them somewhere. This was a reply to a question from a Drop-in Time student who wanted to know about ways to learn “new skills” for older students who might need to learn tech for work or just know what’s out there. How does a librarian know where to point people?

Hey there — yeah the 23 Things stuff is a good place to start exploring. The other things I mentioned that I think you wrote down
are

Lynda.com
Universal Class through the library
Khan Academy
GCFLearnFree for basic skills

The other things that is a bit more on the “fun” end of the spectrum but can get some tech interactive experience AND feel like you are part of a project is looking for crowdsourcing things that people do online to help enhance cultural institutions digital data. So I think of things like this…

Citizen Archivist at the National Archives
https://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist

Text Correct Cambridge Newspapers at Cambridge Public Library
http://cambridge.dlconsulting.com/

Smithsonian Digital Volunteers at the Smithsonian Institution
https://transcription.si.edu/

These don’t always help people who need paying work, but can give people more familiarity interacting in an online environment which can translate into better skills which they’ve learned in a more interesting and engaging environment than just “Watch this video, now try this stuff” Because of Vermont’s unusually low tech saturation (for reasons we discussed a little) there are very few, if any, of these tech projects based in VT or centered around Vermont resources. And RSVP doesn’t have as much of a hold here as it does in other places.

You can poke around this list here and see if anything else piques your interest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_crowdsourcing_projects

Free tech learning resources – short list

screen shot from Chinese advanced email handout

I mentioned back in January that NYPL has said they were putting all of their handouts for their tech classes online. It took a while for them to get that sorted, but they’re online now and worth checking out. There is rarely any good reason to reinvent the wheel in tech instruction. While computers and the internet have changed a great deal, many old favorites like Mousercise still deliver. There are a lot of things people point to for good tutorials and lessons, but very few that have good information in a clear and easy to understand way. For anyone who is looking to actually spend money on tutorials, Lynda.com is the definite go-to. Otherwise the short list of worth-a-damn sites continues to be short.

If you’re on facebook there is a good group there that is low traffic where people regularly swap ideas for this sort of thing (or answer questions) called Technology Training and Libraries