A common misconception about technology is that young adults and teenagers are more proficient users than those over 35. The technology age, it would appear, had bypassed the Baby Boomers and Generation X.
As a technology educator I have great pleasure dispelling this myth. In particular, working with teenagers gives me an insight into how they use technology and why. I’ve found there are some aspects of technology where teens and young adults excel whilst in other key skills their knowledge is sadly lacking.
Undoubtedly teens and young adults are amazing texters. I simply can’t text like they do and am all fingers and thumbs. This can be explained, in part, by a research study that found texting has altered the teenage brain so that their fingers have more dexterity than an adults. They can text a message via satellite in the time I’m dithering about trying to insert a full stop.
Also, their mobile phone relationship is a highly personalised one. The phone is their lifeline and they use them as watches, calenders, communicating and organising their daily lives. The installed apps can guide, amuse or entertain them non-stop so that their attachment to the device becomes all consuming. This mobile phone obsession rarely extends to those over 40, who have difficulty understanding the key role a mobile phone plays with the younger generation.
The phone is also hugely popular as a means of social networking. Teenagers are not necessarily engaging online by using superior technology skills – most of them are watching videos or sending messages which requires little skill. The more challenging aspects of technology – using software still needs to be taught.
I believe technology efficiency requires three key skills regardless of age:
Interest: If you have an interest in something then you tend to pursue it. To understand how to use software you need to read books, watch tutorials, join a class or find some other means of tuition. If you are keen to enhance your technology skills then nothing can prevent the joy of learning.
Aptitude: Having taught many people to use various software I’ve concluded that some people have more aptitude than others. Why are some people better basketball players than others? Why are others superior cooks to their peers? What makes a better driver, cyclist, swimmer, writer? It is aptitude. We cannot be good at everything but we can excel at some. People who enjoy using technology generally have an aptitude for it. They will take risks, experiment with software, tinker when they get the chance and most importantly they rarely panic if something unexpected occurs.
Practice: I’ve taught software for years but if I don’t keep practising then I forget it. For example, I teach a lot of Adobe software like Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Indesign and Premiere. However, if I go too long without teaching software I start to forget things – quickly. The only way to stay on top is to practice. The more you practice the better you get. The better you get the more you practice.
It is never too late to enhance your technology skills. You may find you have an aptitude for it. What you won’t find though is that age makes the slightest bit of difference.