5 Tips for giving an e-reader to the techno-challenged this Christmas

December 22, 2011

e-ReaderI know, I know, it’s hard to believe… but technology can scare some people.

E-readers are all the rage, but for some people, the joy of reading can be squashed by all the “little things” you need to do when you get a new digital device like an e-reader, iPad or a tablet.

If you are giving an e-reader to someone this holiday season, here are some tips to help the non-tech-savvy enjoy their first e-reading experience more:

  1. Charge the e-reader, so you are giving it with a full battery. That way, the fun of reading can begin right away.
  2. Set the date and time correctly. Fiddling with these types of settings can drive some people up the wall. Pre-setting this information can help your recipient skip the frustration and go right for the reading.
  3. Set up the wireless connection. If you are giving an e-reader to someone in your own household, set up the wireless connection beforehand. That means inputting the security code for the wireless router and testing it to make sure it works.
  4. Install any required software or do a software update. Installing or updating software can be frustrating for some people. Giving a device that is completely up-to-date and ready to use can help the recipient move quickly into using the device, rather than setting it all up.
  5. Create a “discovery experience” by including the gift of your time. Offer to spend an hour with your recipient to help them learn how to use their e-reader. Discover things about the e-reader together such as thow to change the text size, how to turn pages or how to buy a book online. Remember, this time is part of your gift — be patient, keep it light and fun and focus on the discovery of new skills, not what the recipient can’t do.

We have a raging debate in our house as to whether these steps should be taken before or after the gift is given. The other geek in the house thinks that the initial ripping into the packaging that shrouds a piece of virgin technology is a sacred experience and that opening the package beforehand is just sacrilege.

Personally, I think that if the recipient is a techno-phobe, the idea of unwrapping a new piece of technology is accompanied by an often silent and unvoiced, “Oh, crap. More technology.” By ever-so-carefully opening the package with the precision of a surgeon and taking care of the technical details before the recipient opens the gift, you are quietly giving the gift of disarming their trepidation before it becomes a reality.

But I probably think that because I have memories of some of the toys I received as a child at Christmas would magically come with batteries not only included, but installed. I remember how I felt being able to “play” right away. That’s a feeling I want to pass on with the grown-up gift of technology.

Regardless of whether you do these things before or after the gift is given, the point is that the easier and more fun you can make the reader’s initial experience with a new technology like an e-reader, the more likely the recipient is to continue to use the reader on their own.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Literacy and Essential Skills: Why Digital Literacy is Crucial

December 6, 2011

The Guardian recently published an article called “No place in class for digital illiterates“. The article talks about how children who lack technology literacy skills are getting left behind. Writer Gavin Dudeney talks about changing definitions of literacy that now include “digital literacy”  or the ability to use the Internet and interact with digital texts.

As I was writing The Need For Increased Integration of Technology and Digital Skills in the Literacy Field in Canada I found research that suggests that Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills may be just the beginning. One of the 9 Essential Skills is “Computer Use”. Some researchers are suggesting that this term is too narrow. Today, it is not enough for a person to know how to turn on a computer, manipulate a mouse or use a track pad or write a resume on a word processing program. Digital skills are an important part of computer use.

People need to know how to search for everyday information such as bus schedules, tax information and other important information that is part of every day living. Job seekers need to know how to search for and apply for jobs posted on the Internet and submit their resume through an online application system. More and more job application sites require users to create an account and register with a company or a service. If adults do not know how to do these things, they will fall behind.

Children who do not know how to use touch screens or the Internet may find themselves disadvantaged later on, as they try to catch up with digitally savvy peers. There are some groups and individuals who are opposed to the increased use of technology in schools. Waldorf Schools, a system of private schools with an excellent reputation, reportedly does not use any technology in its elementary grades.

As an educator, I worry about such approaches. Clearly, it works for them because they are a hugely successful network of schools. But I openly confess that I have never worked with a Waldorf school, myself. I’d love to be invited to one to see how they teach and engage with their learners. As a bit of a “tech junkie”, I have to acknowledge my bias in favour of using more technology, rather than less. I worried whether children who do not learn how to use touch screens or the Internet in their school years may find themselves disadvantaged later on, as they try to catch up with digitally savvy peers?

Having said that, I do think it is important to incorporate technology in a meaningful way that shows why we are using it, what purpose it serves and ultimately, how it benefits the learner. It is critical to make these links so that we show how digital skills can help children develop cognitively and socially so that when they grow up, their lives as adults have meaning as they find work that makes them feel that they are making a meaningful contribution to their world. It is a world that we can only dream about right now. As an educator, I ask, how do we best prepare our learners for success in five, ten or twenty years’ time? And what will “literacy and essential skills” look like a decade from now?

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Finding Our Way: Digital Technologies and E-Learning for Adult Literacy Students, Educators and Programs

October 23, 2011

Finding Our Way from Alpha Plus is a must-have resource for anyone working in adult literacy.

Written by Maria Moriarty, this literature review from 2005-2011 that looks at digital reading; digital skills and employment; learning disabilities and assistive technology; the digital divide; anywhere/anytime learning; collaborative learning; and professional development in technology for literacy educators.

It examines how technology has been used to enhance learning and professional development. It also asks the question: Where do we go from here?

The report includes some excellent discussion and carefully examines how technology is being integrated into literacy today.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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