User groups, particularly ones catering to seniors, can generate interesting exchanges and be useful in many ways to someone who wants to tutor seniors. I frequent a local group, both to participate, and to listen. Sometimes by listening to seniors present problems they have been working on and then watching how the response goes, I can learn more about ways to talk effectively to the people I tutor. Tutoring without understanding the various ways that people can be confused is not very efficient.
Another benefit of listening to a peer group work out difficulties is that a tutor can get a better idea of what topics are of interest. Things that interest a person coming up to speed are often quite different from things that interest a person who is fluent in computer usage.
At the latest meeting of a group I attend, one of the members created a mini-stir by suggesting that when surfing, a person can hold down the ctrl key and magnify the page by turning the mouse scroll wheel. That function held no interest for me at all. It’s cute, and maybe occasionally handy, but so what? However, several of the other participants asked questions and were obviously interested. At least one of the questioners has been diagnosed as having the onset of macular degeneration (actually we all seem to get it if we live long enough). So magnifying text in a convenient way was much more important to him than to me.
However, another enthusiast strongly urged members to download some free software from Microsoft, but that software only works on XP, and the members have every form of Windows from 98 on. (Yes, at least one has kept ME on her machine in spite of strong advice to upgrade.) This poses a moral dilemma for the tutor who is at the meeting essentially on an anthropological expedition. Should the tutor comment or wait and see how the conversation goes? In such a case, I probably err on the side of being too wordy and jumping in. I try to wait for at least a few rounds of conversation before commenting, but sitting on one’s hands can shut off circulation, and biting one’s tongue makes eating salty food painful. We all make the compromises that work for us.
User groups are also a good place to troll for new clients, but I take a really low profile and never try to push myself in such a group. The other members are all polite and probably would not throw me out to keep the group pure from contamination by commercial interests. However, these are friends, and using the group meetings without offending any sensibilities is a delicate art. The availability of my services gets passed around by word of mouth. That is good enough for me since tutoring is not my main source of income. However, if you are trying to pay the rent and need to scare up more students, then I suggest other ways than self-promotion at a user group – that could have negative consequences. Of course, offering to make a presentation on a subject of interest is fair game and can be a win-win adventure.
When someone in the group announces a problem that I can solve, but then no one in the group wants to attack, I will openly share my thoughts. This is not giving away an opportunity for income. It is doing a good deed, and as is the case with many good deeds, it might be better for you in the long run. Don’t do it with the idea that you will attract a new customer just because you helped someone. That might be the result, and you hope that it will be the case, but people are smarter than you think, and if you are only participating to feather your own nest, they will figure it out.
Another week has gone by and my updated tutorial on Senior Computing is not done. I am particularly concerned about excising all typos and getting the grammar correct because both of my other tutorials have been contaminated by typos. All this takes time.
The new version if already much larger than the first version and contains many more hints and anecdotal stories. I still solicit input from seniors who have recently become computer literate so that they can express in their own words what worked for them and what didn’t. Ideally I would also have input from computer dropouts, but that is more difficult to come by. If you know a senior who has tried to become computer literate and gave up, I would like to know about it.
In the meantime, for more in-depth tips on tutoring seniors, see the complete tutorial. I also have posted a tutorial on elementary decision theory for those who might question a physician’s diagnosis (important for seniors) or anti-terrorist activities (important for everyone) but haven’t had the mental framework to analyze the data.
[tags]senior learning,compromise,sherman e. deforest,senior computing,user group[/tags]