Age is not an obstacle to mastering the use of smart devices

"Age is not an obstacle to mastering the use of smart devices," Algirdas Visgaudas (86) from Telšiai courageously shared his opinion. These words best describe the impressions and experience of the international project „Senjorai ir skaitmeninės technologijos (Seniors@DigiWorld)“. The purpose of this project is to encourage elderly people who never use the Internet to get acquainted with digital technologies, i.e. tablet PCs, their capabilities and get started using them in everyday life.

Today, more and more talk is being made about the advantage of a tablet with respect to other technologies, for teaching older people to use the Internet and other e-services. The idea to create a curriculum for adult education in terms of teaching seniors how to work with tablet computers emerged after finding that only 9% of the elderly people in Lithuania were familiar with these devices. And this is one of the smallest indicators in the European Union.

Taking into account this tendency, the association Public Internet Access Points together with the project "Seniors@DigiWorld" partners from Germany, Spain and Romania has developed a training programme called "A Tablet for Digital Skills Development".

The programme was first introduced to adult educators in Plungė, Šilutė, Šiauliai region, Radviliškis and Pasvalys public libraries. In order to reach seniors who have never used technology, the project organizers invited social workers from the Plungė and Skuodas elderly homes to join. After getting familiar with the programme, educators have gained competencies in using tablet PCs with iOS and Android operating systems, learned about the peculiarities of older people learning and, above all, got to know how to create educational activities for older people who want to learn using the tablet. "In my opinion, it is the first such kind of programme in Lithuania," said Sandra Jablonskienė, Head of the Information Department at the Šilutė Public Library, "For some years now, I have been teaching local people to use the tablets, but I had to arrange the training content myself. Therefore, I am very pleased that from now on I will be able to rely on the new educational material that has been developed, which is very clear, concrete and adaptable to learners of different levels. The material is very user-friendly as it is available in a virtual environment, it can be downloaded or printed by subject and used as an educational material during the trainings," added Sandra.

During the training activities, adult education staff were working and training members of their community, i.e. seniors over 65. In March and April over 50 trainers participated in the training sessions.

During the trainings, seniors learned not only to film, photograph, use the email, social networking and other various communication programs, but also got acquainted with different operating system tablets like iOS and Android, their setting features, how to securely use the mobile device, to protect their personal information, tried to create their own Apple and Google accounts. Each educational worker opted for teaching content and training by taking into account the level of learners' digital knowledge, their needs and their hobbies. The experiences and impressions of the learners are very different: "Youtube is a good thing! I can even watch my favourite movie series on the Internet!" "From now on, I will register with my doctor only on the Internet because it is so convenient!" "Through this big phone, I saw my son live abroad!" "What a great calculator and weather forecast program!" "This item can be taken even to the garden!" "I’m definitely going to buy a tablet or ask for a birthday gift from my children!"

This project was a major discovery for the adult education staff and organizers who did not expect the programme to be so successful and popular among the learners. "At the end of the training, I can firmly say that tablets really have a positive effect on the elderly and it definitely contributes to reducing the digital exclusion in the country," said Laura Grinevičiūtė, Project Manager. "We really hope that the programme "A Tablet for Digital Skills Development" will be successfully used by other individuals and organizations working in the sphere of adult non-formal education," added the manager of the project.