This past Monday night I did a two hour presentation to the nascent Oak Point Computer Club. "Oak Point" is an over 55 retirement community; I live there. No, I'm not retired, but I am getting closer to that and there are a lot of other reasons to live here. Enough about that..
The presentation I gave is outlined at http://oakpointcommunity.org/clubs/computer/0908presentation.html. The only parts I didn't cover were the sections on testing connections with telnet; I explained that this was probably far too geeky for most of them but that I'd leave it in the written version for the few who might be able to use that.
The turnout was larger than I expected. I thought we might get a dozen people; we had close to four times that.
I thought the lecture went well. There were a lot of questions, and they were pertinent and intelligent. I'm not one of those "Please hold your questions till the end" people - I like to straighten out things while we're in the thick of it and I don't mind a segue or two as long as we don't get too far afield. As it would probably take less than thirty minutes to read that presentation aloud but we actually ran two hours, you can see that there were quite a few questions..
However, the lecturer almost always thinks it went well. Our jokes were funny, we explained everything perfectly, and everyone left feeling rosy and well-informed. The reality can be different, so I sent out an email questionaire the next day asking the attendees if they felt it was too basic, too advanced, just right, or anything in-between.
About 20% of the group answered, which is a decent response (though you always wonder why it isn't better). Of those responding, 80% felt it was "just right" or close to that, but 20% felt it was too advanced; they were "overwhelmed", it was "over their heads". Nobody thought it was too basic.
That didn't entirely surprise me. After all, this is a group of seniors; most didn't have much computer experience in their lives. On the other hand, I was a little surprised: if you have an email address (that's how I sent the survey) and you responded by email, aren't you obviously already beyond the "The computer is a wonderful tool and one of the wonders is email" stage?
Well, apparently not. These people were confused. An interesting aside is that in their comments they felt most other people were equally baffled, while the comments from those that felt the presentation was valuable indicated that they thought the other attendees were equally pleased.. somebody is obviously wrong..
I had initially thought of doing a demo of setting up Outlook Express on a few machines and sending a few mails back and forth, perhaps demonstrating attachments.. but then I thought that was way too basic and also not everyone is using Outlook: we had AOL users, Webmail users and even two fellow Mac users.. that's why I decided to make it more generic.
And honestly, other than the "telnet" stuff that I did leave out as explained above, I think this WAS pretty basic. Obviously most or all of the readers here would think so, and even most of the attendees didn't think it was too advanced. That's why I'm looking for a little help: how could I meet the needs of those few who were "overwhelmed"?
Your thoughts are appreciated. How would you have approached this (or approach it for a separate "rank beginners" class)?
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-07-12 Anthony Lawrence