April 18, 2012

USA: Seniors take classes to sharpen computer skills

CHIPPEWA Valley, Wisconsin / The Chippewa Herald / News / April 17, 2012
Jill Hietpas, community development and broadband educator
for UW-Extension, gestures while teaching the finer points of
using computers at the Chippewa Falls Senior Center.
Rod Stetzer / The Herald

It’s a common concern Jill Hietpas has heard many times from senior citizens trying to learn how to use computers.
“The one thing to remember is that you can’t really ruin anything,” she told her eight students at the Chippewa Falls Senior Center on Friday.
Her students listened while she dispensed tips on how to how to use Internet browsers, such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.
Many of the students  were using new equipment purchased with a grant from the Edwin and Evelyn Nyhus Centennial Fund, through the Community Foundation of Chippewa County.
The grant money went to buy five computers, printers and assorted accessories for the senior center.
Charline Kozlowski of Chippewa Falls was in Hietpas’ class to sharpen her computer skills. She said she needed to learn more because after she is done using the family computer, younger family members use it and then change its settings.
Hietpas is a community development and broadband educator for University of Wisconsin-Extension. She teaches computer skills in Chippewa, Dunn and Eau Claire counties.
“We find that people want more information and access,” she said.
Asked what makes some of her older students frustrated, Hietpas said: “There’s so much to learn that, where do you begin?”
Also, young people seem to learn computer skills naturally, something that’s generally not the case for older students.
Hietpas said she also has iPads for her students to use later. The computer tablets are easy to use and some seniors enjoy them more than computers because no mouse is needed.
Friday’s class participants all navigated to the Herald’s website, www.Chippewa.com. Hietpas told the students  a computer address is really no different than ones used to mail a letter.
In upcoming lessons, Hietpas will show her class how to use search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, to find information. And she will cover Internet safety, which she said is very important not only for the very young but also for  seniors.
“The introduction to computers has opened the door for our seniors to communicate with their families and friends who are using email and Facebook,” said Angie Walker, the executive director of the senior center.
Not everything went smoothly for the students on Friday. Hietpas helped out after Beverly Hager of Chippewa Falls reported while using a laptop:
“I have a blank screen.”
Hietpas urged the students to be patient.
“You always have problems with computers. So you better get used to it now,” she said.
Copyright 2012 Chippewa.com
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