Generation Gap

I’m going to let you into a little secret… I’m 50! Now you might not think that is particularly exciting or even a secret (just search my Facebook profile). What is possibly unusual is I’m not scared of computers nor do I think the internet is black magic, and yet I have clients who are around my age or a little older and both things terrify them!

Now in many ways, this is a blessing to us social media folk or website creators but I like to be inclusive, not exclusive. I want these people to enjoy working with computers and tablets or be confident in using the internet, after all so much of everyone’s life is conducted online these days.

So where do you start with these lovely people when there is an inbuilt fear of breaking something or deleting everything? Personally, I don’t think it matters where you start, I believe the most important thing is pace.

I recently watched 2 friends together, one in her early 30’s, we’ll call her Savvy showing Learner friend who’s in her 50’s how to post on Facebook. The conversation went like this…

  • Savvy – “Open Facebook…”
  • Learner – “Ok, I’ve done that”
  • Savvy – Click on the box at the top to post and add a photo”
  • Learner – “Errr….” with a blank look
  • Savvy – “Pass the tablet to me and I’ll show you – Look you just click here… type this, add the photo like that and click share. See! Dead easy!”
  • Leaner – “mmmmmmm…”

Obviously, my poor friend trying to learn actually learnt absolutely nothing except the fact that Savvy friend is a wiz on Facebook.

To me, it’s pretty obvious where all that went wrong, as I’m sure it is to you, but let’s break it down. They had a great start! Savvy let Learner have the tablet but her instructions assumed some knowledge and she quickly became frustrated and took over and went through instructions in a very scant manner and far too quickly!

When I am working with clients to show them things like; how to post, make changes to their page, change information on their website, create stories or write a blog the first thing I do is to create a step by step guidebook which details every single step you take.

I make sure we both have lots of time for our meeting to go through the guidebook and tasks, in a place with little or no distractions. Normally an hour is enough time and people tend to lose interest with any longer than that. If we can’t get through it all we’ll just schedule another session.

A couple of days before the meeting I share the guidebook with them and ask them to have a quick read through to see if there are any questions before we start. At the meeting, we both work on the same type of device – tablet or laptop, side by side. Then we work through one small task at a time together on each device, step by step, me doing the step first followed by them.

Once the task is complete I ask a range of open questions to confirm their understanding of what they’ve just done and go over anything that needs clarification. Then we revert to where we started and it’s their turn to do the task solo, talking me through it and following the guidebook. In addition, I always encourage them to make their own notes in the guidebook using language they understand and even little drawings!

I’ll also answer any questions as we go, I always say it’s better to ask a question several times and get things right than struggle and get things wrong. This just feeds their anxiety with the task at hand and means they’re likely to give up.

Finally, I ask them to go away and practice – and soon, while it’s all still fresh in their minds.

So, there you have it! My steps to help someone learn a new skill on the internet.

  • Create guidelines
  • Allow plenty of time
  • Remove distractions and no multitasking
  • Work through the task together
  • Encourage note taking and question asking
  • Confirm their understanding through questioning
  • Practice!

Using this method I’ve got technophobes posting on all types of social media, an 85-year- old updating small sections of his website each month, a lady in her 60’s is now blogging regularly and using affiliate marketing and even my husband, a real technophobe, can now enjoy the banter on Twitter!

It is time-consuming and of course, I factor this into any costs. Perhaps some people may think it’s not worth your while, but being inclusive like this has brought me work through recommendations. As many have said before me, it’s not a competition there’s room for us all to succeed, even in the smallest of victories.


Written by Nance Larkin:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *