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What is technological literacy?

By Haik Kazarian

Haik is an alumnus of theTelfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. He is the founder of Students for Seniors Inc., a company that focuses on teaching seniors technology skills in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. His company has worked with the Council on Aging of Ottawa numerous times. 

What is technological literacy? According to our research and Students for Seniors’ technology tutoring experience over the last three years, it is the ability, curiosity and attitude to confidently explore and discover new and existing technologies and to use them to enhance one’s lifestyle.

Someone who is technologically literate can send and receive emails, isn’t intimidated when their device asks to be updated, closes unsolicited pop-ups and isn’t put off by unknown symbols. Most importantly, this person explores and exploits technology as a tool rather than viewing it as a necessary evil.

What benefits can people get when they embrace technology, even if it’s for the first time and amid all the scary news of viruses, identity theft and ransomware?

Connecting with family and friends and making new friendsYou’ve probably already heard all about social media. At the very least, using a cellular phone and email will open some real doors into instantaneous communication. Very few, if any, tools are as powerful as online social networking (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.). They have helped dozens of our clients reconnect with friends and loved ones they lost touch with decades ago. You can also connect with new people who share your interests.

Playing computer games for mental health’s sakeNothing can replace physical activity and face-to-face interactions to help keep the mind sharp. But studies have shown that computer games, specifically puzzle and logic games, are also very helpful.[i] There are loads of free games out there to discover and enjoy with friends.

New ways of sharing and being creative Have your fingers become too stiff to type up your long-planned memoirs? There’s computer software you can use to dictate them instead. Do you love to cook? Why not create a video-recipe of your famous holiday meal or look up new recipes for inspiration?

Learning about new and interesting thingsYou can research any topic that you are curious about, from politics, religion and science to crochet patterns and do-it-yourself crafts. The list is endless, because technology puts the largest repository of information in the world at your fingertips.

Embracing the way of the futureFortunately or unfortunately, sooner or later, some things will only be available online. There are already government documents that are processed much faster when they are submitted online rather than in print. The same goes for banking transactions, ticket purchases, shopping and much more.

Saving money in the comfort of your own home Some of the best deals and discounts are online. Sure, companies offering senior-oriented products and services make the extra effort to offer the classic phone-based and store-based options, but if you want the truly good deals, the Internet is the place to be. Being able to get the best deals while sitting at home is the ultimate in shopping convenience!

By now you might be thinking, “Okay, this is great and all. But it’s hard, and I’ve tried and failed so many times. My children and grandchildren, bless their hearts, just don’t have the patience to sit down and explain things to me” or “My computer technician costs me $100/hour and doesn’t have time to teach.”

My answer: Yes, it can be challenging to learn to use technology, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll be amazed at how much your world will expand. Before long, you’ll look back and think that the time you spent exploring how to use your computer was one of the best investments you ever made.

[i] Jung, Y., Li, K.J., Janissa, N.S., Gladys, W.L.C., Lee, K.M.: Games for a Better Life: Effects of Playing Wii Games on the Well-Being of Seniors in a Long-Term Care Facility. In: Proceedings of IE 2009, Sydney, Australia (2009)

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