Know someone who’s tech-shy? Here’s how to introduce them to the online world

Digital skills are a great tool for connecting to others and enriching social lives, but it doesn’t come intuitively to everyone. Here’s a few tips on helping someone less familiar with technology learn computer and internet skills.

A middle aged couple look at a digital tablet, smiling
1. Explain the benefits

Loveneet Kaur has taught basic computer skills at the Heritage Skills Development Centre in Scarborough, Ontario. She says that people unfamiliar with technology often want to learn the basics of navigating a computer or tablet, and how to use Microsoft Office, social media and video calling.
Think about which online tools will most enhance the person’s wellbeing and access to services. “Some may feel intimidated about using new technology, which limits their ability to access many services and resources that are only available online”, Loveneet says.
During COVID-19, Loveneet says that showing people how to use video calling platforms is particularly useful as it allows them to connect with family and friends. “My students enjoyed learning how to turn on and off cameras, share screens, and start their own Zoom calls with friends.”

2. Cater to their skill level

Loveneet’s best advice for teaching? “Be patient, as students may have minimal experience with technology, and it takes time to learn a new skill.”
“Also use simple language, and provide live demonstrations so students know what they should be seeing on their own screens.”
People often learn best by trying skills out themselves – so encourage them to tap, type and click. You can also encourage them to write notes (yes, with pen and paper!) and remember to ask often if they have questions.

3. Make it fun

Keep it friendly and relaxed. If the person you are teaching has a particular hobby or interest, incorporate it into your teaching.
“One of my students really enjoyed learning how to use PowerPoint, and he created several presentations to showcase his photography work,” says Loveneet.
Think about helping the person create their own presentation which shares interesting things about themselves. Other fun things to teach include:
  • showing them how to look up satellite maps of somewhere they know
  • helping them video call a friend, or setting up a regular virtual coffee catch-up
  • introducing them to video tutorials on a hobby. 

4. Address barriers

When many of us have the internet at our fingertips, it can be easy to forget this is a luxury rather than a given.
If you know someone without easy access to a computer, look at helping them participate in a laptop loan program (often run through public libraries or community organizations). You could also ask around to see if someone else has an older device they’re not using – even a hand-me-down phone with wi-fi capabilities can be useful.
For people without access to an internet connection, you can research nearby public places with free wi-fi, such as public parks, libraries, or cafes (just check COVID restrictions first).

5. Talk about safety and misinformation

Make sure people new to the internet are aware of scams and the prevalence of misinformation during emergencies. Some of the basics in relation to social media use:
  1. Do not take medical, health or public safety advice from social media users. Only take this information from trusted sources such as the Canadian Government and World Health Organisation, or provincial health, safety and emergency sites and accounts.
  2. Do not share personal information online (e.g. phone numbers, address, social insurance number, banking information).
  3. Do additional research before purchasing products off social media (especially if it is not a verified company).
  4. Switch to a private social media account so you can control who follows you, especially if you are posting pictures of yourself or your family. 
Remember that teaching and learning a new skill takes patience from both people. If your pupil is feeling frustrated, remind them learning something new is always hard but with practice they will get better.
At the end of the day, congratulate yourselves with a cup of tea and some cat videos!

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