Teacher, helpers aid seniors to get technology savvyPublished 5:05pm Tuesday, July 22, 2014
A handful of senior citizens, mostly women over age 50, silently move their mouses and strike the keys on their laptop computers for an hour and a half each week to close the communication gap that exits between themselves and their children and grandchildren.
These part-time students are members of an adult computer literacy class, which is being taught at the Bridge Ministry Center on the McKendree United Methodist Church campus in Massey.
The idea for The Bridge Ministry sprang from a desire of church members to re-energize the church by discovering new ways to make a bigger difference in the community, according to pastor Mike Vest.
“Fortunately, we had a lady in our congregation with college teaching experience in computer science and a burden on her heart for seniors who have a desire to become computer literate,” he said. “Our congregation, like many others in our area, is small in number and faced with a difficult task of bringing in young members. We hope to overcome that by focusing on bridging the communications gap that exists between older and younger generations.”
Lynn Hogan, a former computer science instructor at Calhoun Community College and currently a professor at the University of North Alabama, leads the program.
“Our purpose is to bring generations together by providing learning and outreach activities,” Hogan said. “Initially, we received a grant from the North Alabama UMC Conference and used the money to purchase computer equipment and supplies.”
Twice weekly classes on Tuesday and Saturday at 10 a.m. were started in April with 11 students enrolled.
“The students were limited in their use of a computer and some had to start from scratch,” Hogan pointed out. “Patience is a virtue we have put to good use. I’m amazed at the progress they’ve made in such a short time.”
Hogan said several college age young people have attended classes to help teach the students about social media and smart phone usage.
Outside class activities are also being used to bridge the generations. Recently, the Bridge Ministry Center sponsored a musical benefit for the UMCOR Disaster Warehouse Relief Center. Entertainment acts ranged from a college-aged African American rapper to a gospel group in which all were over the age of 70.
“It has exceeded our expectations in that it has brought in people from other communities,” said Vest.
“We want The Bridge Ministry to reach beyond our own congregation and community,” Hogan pointed out. “I can envision it being used by youth for peer-to-peer tutoring along with other extracurricular activities”
“I consider myself to be the least computer savvy person in the class,” said Mary Turney. “I came because I wanted to learn how to use Microsoft Word, and I’m going to be able to do that.
“I appreciate the opportunity McKendree UMC has given me to study computer science and I’m especially thankful to Lynn for doing such a good job of teaching. Her study materials are a blessing; they’re easy to read and follow.”
“I use a computer mostly to keep up with church activities,” said Vellene Tanner. “I took a basic course at Hartselle Library and have found this class to be very helpful, with a lot more detail.”
“I came on an invitation from a friend,” said Anita Self. “I had to learn how to use a computer in order to go on line and sign up for Obamacare. We have a great teacher. I’m becoming more comfortable with my PC.”
“I’ve enjoyed the class immensely,” said Von Ange. “It has enabled me to develop new skills and do a lot more with my PC.”
“One of the things I’ve learned is how to download pictures from my camera,” Judy Peters said. “I also wanted to attend another class taught by Lynn. I had her as my professor when I took a computer programming class at Calhoun Community College.”
The Bridge is an open enrollment class. The fee is $20 per month. For more information, contact Hogan at dhogan@una.