Get tech-savvy with help from Tech Tutor – Program helps seniors adapt to new technology

By Eun-Jou Shara Choi

  • Monday, November 24, 2008 8:02pm
  • Business

By Eun-Jou Shara Choi

Last Thanksgiving, Brett Stewart spent hours in front of his mother-in-law’s computer teaching her basic functions, upgrading her system and integrating wireless networking throughout the house.

This sparked an idea to “package an easy-to-digest tutorial (for unfamiliar users of the computer and Internet).” Thus was born Tech Tutor Video.

Stewart, a 1992 Mercer Island High alumnus who has a bachelor’s degree in information systems from the University of Washington, started the business focusing on instructing baby boomers and seniors about computers and the Internet.

“I chose the DVD format because my mother-in-law never wanted to read instruction manuals but was willing to pop in a DVD and watch it,” Stewart explained.

A common misconception, Stewart explained, is the turning on and off of a computer. How do you turn off a computer? You use the “start bar.” The older generation is used to things like a light switch that you use to turn on and off. A computer is much different than that.

E-mail is another confusing tool for many new computer users to grasp.

“You can send the same e-mail to two people at the same time?” Stewart’s mother-in-law asked in amazement.

“Oh wow!” Stewart’s mother-in-law shrieked when she learned that she could save photos that she received in her e-mail account to her hard drive. Before she learned how to do this, she would always log onto her e-mail account to look at the photos.

Sharon Stewart, Brett Stewart’s wife, spent an entire hour explaining to her mother how to put an attachment in an e-mail she wanted to send out.

“I just left the room,” Brett Stewart said. “I couldn’t listen anymore.”

They want to learn how to search the Web, send and receive e-mails and stay in contact with family members, he explained.

“I’ve noticed that new (e-mailers) don’t treat reply e-mails as they should,” he went on. “When I ask (my mother-in-law) a question in an e-mail, she doesn’t answer back.”

She would later tell him that, “I thought I just would talk to you about it.”

E-mail etiquette is not understood by people who are not used to sending and receiving e-mails as a way of communication.

“We wanted to shrink the (target) market and address their needs because no one has addressed them specifically,” Brett Stewart said.

The tutorial DVD goes over basic skills, overcoming the fear of computers, computer components including using a mouse, Microsoft Windows, file folders, security threats, the Internet, e-mail basics, digital photographs, printing, and troubleshooting when the computer freezes.

Gary Pico, who recently bought the product, endorses the DVD whole-heartedly. When Pico’s mother-in-law, who is in her mid-60s, first got a cell phone, “she kept calling me at work accidentally because my number was programmed in her phone.”

“The computer is just like the cell phone,” Pico said.

After giving her the Tech Tutor Video, “the call volume dropped a lot. (Tech Tutor Video) has changed my life.”

En-Jou Shara Choi is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Lab.

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