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Learning – at 74

There is a good reason that children are taught at an early age. Their minds are like little sponges. They absorb everything. Okay, perhaps not willingly, if you ask one of the many parents having to teach their beloved offspring during these strange pandemic times.  (My, how teachers have risen in appreciation!)

I think we have all heard the expression, “If you have a problem with technology, ask a 12 year-old.” Children as young as three or four can face the intricacies of a cell phone or a computer tablet with cheerful equanimity. No fear of messing up. No terror of ruining it. No gut-wrenching worries about touching the wrong key.

And then there are the troglodytes—those of us in our sixties, seventies and eighties— who have finally mastered e-mail, at the insistence of younger family members. “Sure, Grandma, just click on this, and push that, and see the little house symbol? Open that, and . . .”  By then Grandma is fluttering her hands and gasping for air. I think it was called “Getting the vapors” back in the olden days. We still get them.

Why is it so hard for older folks to learn the new technology? Without doubt, it is fear. Fear of breaking something. Fear of losing some important message. Fear of not remembering the steps. Fear of crashing the whole computer world. Wait, didn’t someone tell me how to fix that? Wasn’t it Control-Z? What is Control-Z? No, that’s not it.

And, dear Lord, they keep adding new technology on top of the old, that we hadn’t learned in the first place. They call it Social Media, but what are all these new methods of communicating? I was doing well to learn emails. But now I have to check Facebook every day. And Instagram. And a dozen new forms of communicating. And now with the Pandemic, there is also Zoom. Oh, No!

I teach a Sunday School class to a group of wonderful senior citizens. (I don’t think any of us would object to that title.) With the Pandemic, many of us would rather avoid being in crowds so our church has gone over to “distance-messaging.” Our church, thanks to our very youthful and “with-it” Associate Pastors, invested in some of the new technology to create a Zoom Room. Cameras, microphones, giant TV screens and a console that would go well with a space suit.

As the teacher, I had to face that strange, octopus-like controller. Turn the TV on. Touch the Controller. Open this. Push that. Join this. No, go back. Try that one. No, requires a password. Try this one. No, not that either. A number? I have to have a number? And a password?

The Associate pastors were kind enough to go over it with me several times, but I had to make all the mistakes, with terror eating at my innards, before I caught on. And then to remember it from week to week? They left a lengthy, plastic-covered instruction sheet with the Space Force controller. And their cell phone number so I could call in emergencies. Which is every Sunday.   

Now, we send out invitations to Zoom for meetings on Sunday and during the week. Ah, but getting my beloved Sunday School members to actually click on the link and join the meeting? Ain’t happening. Or, maybe it will. Slowly. When we overcome the fear. Or when the twelve-year-old grandson comes over and says, “See, Grandma, it’s easy. Just click on the link.” Yeah, easy for them to say! What’s a link? How do I join with Video? How do I mute when Grandpa wants his coffee in the background? And how do I keep Grandpa from wandering past in his under britches behind me for all the world to see? Yes, Fear!

Wait. How do I go about posting a blog on my website? It’s been six months! I’ve forgotten!

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