“When your patience runs out, get up and do something physical. Then come back to the task later,” says Connections instructor Emanuel Pope.

That’s how he approaches learning something new, and it’s what he advises the people who take technology classes at Pacific Region Oasis in Los Angeles to do as well. They come ready to learn everything from online safety to using the iPad and iPhone and mastering Facebook.

Emanuel Pope with students at Pacific Region Oasis

“So many of our students say, ‘I just want to know how to post something on Facebook.’ I tell them that it’s an all-powerful tool if you don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. I say, ‘Don’t be overwhelmed, just be whelmed. Take what you need from it. If you walked into the Library of Congress, you would go to the section you need. Think about Facebook the same way.’”

Emanuel comes from a long line of teachers, and he says the satisfaction of his work with Oasis comes especially when someone learns something new that he takes for granted. When working with an older adult, memories of his own grandmother, are never far from his mind.

“She had people living close by who could help her with her technology issues, but she always waited for me to visit. She wanted help from me,” he says.

With confidence, tech can have a personal touch

Carita DeVilbissWhen her cell phone rings, Carita DeVilbiss does not hear a ring tone or a catchy tune. She hears her mother’s voice singing a song. It’s a comfort to her, now that her mother has passed away. 

Getting that loving reminder throughout the day of someone so dear to her was easy for Carita, who is very comfortable with technology.

“I’ve always found myself in the position of teaching people how to use computers and other technology,” she says. “It doesn’t scare me likes it does a lot of people my age.”

Carita has been teaching Connections classes at San Antonio Oasis since 2012. Recently, she’s been focusing on instruction for older adults with iPads and iPhones. She says most people come to the class really wanting to know how to do one or two specific things. She tries to make sure they get their questions answered by the end of the four-week session and works to throw in some other helpful tricks of the trade. Learning how to take good photos with the iPad is a popular request. 

“I want everyone to leave the class with just a little bit more confidence than they can try something new and be successful at it,” she says.

In addition to teaching classes, Carita happily lends her tech-savvy skills as needed for any number of projects at the San Antonio Oasis. She recently helped create a video to share at the center’s 25th anniversary celebration. 

“This is my comfort area. I like being able to use the skills I have to help out.”

Taking photos the smartphone way

Jerry McAfeeSmartphones and tablets are not just gizmos for kids. They are a fact of life.

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in November 2016, smartphone adoption has more than doubled since 2011. Nearly 92% of 18-to-29-year-olds own one. The trend is especially strong among Americans 50 and older. Nearly three quarters of Americans ages 50-64 are smartphone owners, as are 42% of adults 65 an older.

Connections instructor Jerry McAfee says he’s a bit of a tech geek who really enjoys explaining what he loves, especially to older adults. He’s been doing that at Indianapolis Oasis since 2009, teaching dozens of classes, primarily to help people learn how to take better pictures. He started with a focus on digital cameras, but has honed in on iPhone photography lately.

“People really want to be able to take good photos with their phones,” he says. “The quality has gotten so high, that it’s hard to tell the difference between these photos and those taken with a point and click camera.”

Jerry limits the size of his classes, so he can provide individual attention.

“We always have a wide range of abilities and experience levels, so it works better this way,” he says. “Some are coming to find out how to do just one or two things, and some just need a little confidence to attempt something they’ve never tried. When they are with their peers, they are in good company.”

In addition to teaching basic mechanics of taking photos with the iPhone, Jerry likes to cover the ABCs of good photo composition. He finds that for all of his tech prowess, he still has a learning curve of his own.

“There is always more to learn, and this keeps me sharp as possible. If someone stumps me with a question, I find myself saying, ‘I don’t know, but let me get back to you.’”

Oasis is a go-to resource for technology guidance

Connections classes are a great way to learn more about how to use technology. Oasis also provides other resources, including how-to videos, tip sheets and this free Mobile Accessibility Guide.

Connections is made possible with support from AT&T and the CTA Foundation.

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