Learning new technology can be a daunting task for some seniors, but thanks to a recent collaboration between Moraine Park Technical College and the Fond du Lac Senior Center, one-on-one help is now available for those struggling or just looking to get the most out of their electronic devices.
In mid-December, students in Moraine Park’s IT Club began volunteering their time Thursday afternoons at the senior center, located at 151 E 1st St. These sessions will resume again when Moraine Park begins its spring semester Jan. 25.
At these sessions, seniors may bring in their devices of any kind for any issue, and an IT Club member will sit down with them personally and try to address their individual, specific questions.
“When we first decided to do this, I expected the IT students to just come in and show a few basic things, but it’s been so much more than that,” said Sarah Olson, outreach, wellness and program coordinator at the senior center. “On the first day they came in, they said ‘We’re not only going to fix the problem, we’re going to teach them how to fix the problem.’”
“It’s been a great way for our IT Club to reach out and volunteer,” said Aaron Schlosser, a Moraine Park student enrolled in a dual degree program for IT Tech Support/IT Networking.
Dozens of seniors have already participated, bringing in a variety of smart phones, laptops and tablets. Among many topics seniors have asked for help with include basic device instruction, email assistance, help finding and playing games, searching and downloading music, watching Youtube videos, photography tips, online banking, learning apps like Snapchat and Skype that help stay in contact with faraway relatives, and more.
“It’s been great to have this opportunity. I do not text. I do not have a smart phone. I have a tablet, but I don’t know how to email or get pictures off of it. We older folks just don’t get it. I mean, we’ve got too much stuff in our head we need to get rid of before we can get this stuff into it,” Janet Vermeer, an attendee at a December session said jokingly, before adding, “This truly helps.”
She brought in her tablet to learn more about replying to emails, social media and other basic tasks.
For Irmgard Knubis, she also attended a session to learn some basics about her tablet. She plans to come to another session and hopes eventually she’ll be able to search and listen to favorite German songs from her youth, and also discover how to read more books on her tablet, which she prefers these days because of the ability to increase font sizes.
“It definitely helps,” Knubis said of sitting down for one-on-one talks with the Moraine Park students. “My son comes over, or grandson comes over, and they can do anything. But, for me … I just don’t know it.”
Not knowing is perfectly natural, said Mitch Sheer, Moraine Park IT Club President, who’s been leading the training efforts. Sheer is also enrolled in a dual degree program for IT Tech Support/IT Networking.
“They don’t know what some of these things mean, and they’re not supposed to. These things weren’t around for them when they were growing up, so it’s our pleasure to help them with that,” he said.
And not only has the program benefited seniors, the sessions have been an asset to Moraine Park’s IT students as well.
“Obviously it’s very, very helpful for them and a great opportunity to give back, but also, we learn a lot, too,” Sheer said. “One woman said to me, ‘I don’t know how you know so much about this.’ I told her I’d never even touched this specific tablet she had before. But that’s what we’re taught mostly in IT. The answers are right in front of you. You just need to be willing to poke around a lot … So it’s just a constant learning experience for us, too.”
To see what IT programs Moraine Park has to offer, visit morainepark.edu/programs. If you have a project you'd like Moraine Park's IT Club to consider, please contact Club Advisor Jeff Sonnleitner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a recent help session at the Fond du Lac Senior Center, Moraine Park Technical College IT Club President Mitch Sheer (left) gives tips and advice to Janet Vermeer on how to perform various functions on her tablet.