Best Practices in Teaching Older Adults Computers: A Comparison of the Perspectives of Older Adults, Computer Instructors, and Social Workers
An increasing number of computer classes with varying formats, content, and instructional approaches have been developed for older adults. Evaluation studies on the best practices in training older adults (OA) computer skills have been limited to the perspective of the researchers, professionals, or consumers. This research uses a multidimensional framework which conceives of best practices as an approach that incorporates empirical research with the experiences of consumers and practitioners (Petr & Walter, 2005). We assessed best practices for teaching computers from OA, computer instructors, and geriatric social workers. The goal was to assess similarities of the instructional practices OA consider helpful and to compare them with social workers and computer instructors. The ultimate goal was to contribute to the discussion on enhancing lifelong learning for OA with technology from a multidisciplinary perspective. The study utilized surveys and interviews with 58 geriatric social workers, 41 computer instructors, and 86 OA. The survey items were developed from a review of research on lifelong learning and qualitative interviews with computer instructors and OA. The three groups rated the structure, content, and pedagogical approaches of computer classes. ANOVA repeated measures indicated there were more similarities for training OA computers than the Internet. The two groups of professionals as well as OA were in agreement with the features of effective computer classes. There were significant differences on pedagogical approaches and content. The practice implications of incorporating the identified best practices for enhancing technology learning from a multidisciplinary perspective are discussed.
Keywords: Computers, Older Adults, Information Technology, Technology Adoption, Human Computer Interface, Community Informatics
Dr. Adrian Kok
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work, Dominican University
Prof. Cyrus Grant
Professor, Computer Science and Management Information Systems, Dominican University