Get To Know Your Techno

Posted by editor 26/09/2013 0 Comment 3259 views

3 tecnoBy Jenny McBain //

Forget talk of uncommunicative youngsters- a group of Highland teenagers shows that they are in possession of true community spirit.

The famous political exhortation that we should ‘hug a hoodie’ was a glib summary about one set of ideas about how to bridge the gap between generations. A group of Highland teenagers has come up with a much more effective way of doing just that.  Periodically, the young people give up some of their free time to help older adults who need help utilising modern technology.

Their scheme, ‘Get to Know Your Techno’, has won a Young Scot Award, a ‘Truth About Youth Award’ and a Highland Council Award.  The format is simple.  One Saturday morning I met up with a group of young volunteers and their youth worker, in a community centre in Ullapool in the Northwest Highlands and observed them at work.

First off, it was clear that these young people are of a friendly and smiley disposition.  Seventeen-year-olds Sigi  and Alice were showing a man in his late fifties how to set up his touch screen mobile phone.  The man in question is Andrei.  He says, “They are very patient with me. I have dumb fingers but they are so fast.  I think it is a wonderful idea. I work with older people and it is nice to be in touch with younger people.”

Andrei visited the drop-in session on a previous occasion to get help with his computer.   He is just one of many who have benefited from the service.  But what do the young people get out of it?

Sigi says, “It’s not just one way.  It is not only helpful for the older people who come in; it helps us too.  If you’re shy you learn to get over it and talk.  It’s fun and it’s good for our futures.”

Alice puts it this way “I like helping people and I understand technology quite well.  Even when I don’t know exactly how to do something, I can usually just use my intuition to sort it out.  People can use manuals but sometimes it’s good to have things explained.”

Sometimes the session is held during a local senior citizen meeting.  On one occasion there were so many people queuing up for assistance that the young people missed an entire school lesson because they were so absorbed in their roles.  And many of the older people in that particular group are now able to use a Wii to engage in a game of bowling thanks to the team’s efforts.

Apparently mobile phones are the gizmos with which the youngsters are most frequently presented.  However, one man wanted to know how to download images from his digital binoculars and, although they had never come across such an item before, the young people were able to help him. It would appear that most technology manufacturers assume their customers have some basic knowledge.  That is not always the case and it can take a so called ‘digital native’ to help them on their way.

‘Get to Know your Techno’ is now spreading to other areas of the Highlands and the Ullapool team have gone on training missions to pass on their skills to other youth groups.

Youth worker Pat Sherrington said, “It’s good for both parties. The older adults get help solving a problem and it’s good for the young people to pass on their expert knowledge.  They acquire confidence and learn people skills in the course of explaining things to people who may be finding it hard to understand.”

Helping people to negotiate mobile technology is the stated purpose of the sessions. But by the end of the two-hour drop in, it was clear that there are many other positive spin offs.  Dana, also 17, said, “Some old people may not have a very positive view of us but they can see that we’re OK.  And to be honest it works the other way round.  After a session, we can stop and have a conversation with someone in the street that we wouldn’t normally talk to.”

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