Several people have made comments about the difficulty of older people learning this technology stuff in the last few weeks. Not just students in my class, but other people as well. The comments are usually some variation of the theme, “Understanding this stuff doesn’t come easily to older people like me.”
As my friend, Heather, said last night, “That dog don’t hunt.”
The problem is not that those individuals are “too old” but rather that they’ve been convince by the media that all this is some kind of mystical ju-ju. A kind of practice like gymnastics where, if you don’t start when you’re 6 years old, you’re over the hill by 10. Every article published about the Millenials emphasizes how they were born into the technological marvels that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Every so often somebody mentions Prensky’s assertion that their brains are “wired” differently. If you’re told often enough that you can’t do it, pretty soon you start to believe you can’t do it.
Like girls and math. My two daughters are already convinced they “can’t do math” — at 8 and 11. But that’s a rant for another post.
Let me play the “back in MY day” game for a minute. When *I* was born …
- … There were only 48 states.
- … Space travel was only in science fiction
- … Computers were just switching over from mechanical switches to vacuum tubes
- … There were no transistor radios
- … TV was black and white and live.
- … Networks were ABC, NBC, and CBS not TCP/IP
- … There was no transatlantic telephone cable
- … There was no vaccine for polio
- … Most adults had a smallpox vaccination scar on their shoulder
No, the problem is not that anybody over 22 is too old to learn this stuff easily. People first have to overcome the fear that they can’t learn it. They need strategies for dealing with the “OMG I’m going to look like an idiot if I ask something SIMPLE!” feeling. They need to find ways to answer their own questions using meaningful modes. Everybody needs to have an appreciation that anybody can learn anything. Sure some of us have talents and others have experiences, and a few have both.
And THAT brings us to this week’s topic of the role of the learner.
I submit that if the role of the teacher is to be a bridge, then part of the role of the learner is to be brave enough to cross it.