Becoming Internet Savvy

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Jeylin White


"It's been very, very interesting. Confusing, but interesting," said Tony Antoine, Wednesday, trying to describe the atmosphere in the "Going Beyond The Basics" computer class he teaches at the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale.

Antoine has been teaching computer classes to seniors at the center for 6 years, and has learned that, with seniors, it's hands-on instruction that matters most. His students, he said, don't want to learn "theoretical things, or algebra." And they prefer to move at "their own pace."

The class covers topics ranging from, how to hold the mouse, to creating and accessing files, to printing, scanning pictures and cropping them, to how to access the Internet and e-mail.

"They want to get more familiar with what's going on, and you have to accommodate each one of their own desires," said Antoine.

For JoAnn Hefferman, however, learning some of the more advanced basic skills has been a little frustrating. "I was already having trouble with my own computer at home, and coming here, it was like the computer world was screaming at me, saying, 'No JoAnn, we don't want you here!'" said Hefferman, jovially.

She said that using the computer was much easier for her before her husband died. "If I had a problem with the computer, all I had to do was yell, 'Pete, there's something wrong with my computer,'" she said. "Now, it's to long of a distance to yell."

While Hefferman may have been a little frustrated with today's technology, that wasn't the case for classmate, Vivian Smith, 64. "I'm enjoying this computer class," she said. "I've learned how to make folders, and create PowerPoints, edit, and scan," said Smith.

She went on to say she had taken Antoine's computer classes before, and now, she's always doing things on the computer. When the "Going Beyond The Basics" class came up, she said, she was eager to sign up. "I love learning new things, because computers are always changing ... so, keeping up with the new programs and software is a great thing."

Sharon Reeves, 64, another classmate, also raved about how much she has learned in Antoine's class. "I wanted to be able to do things on the computer without calling my family for help," said Reeves. She said it has been a little difficult for her to learn some of the applications, but that Antoine is a good teacher. "I feel more comfortable with the computer, now, than before I started his classes."

Antoine said he believes the reason why seniors are more comfortable in his class is because, he, too, is a senior. "Computers are like magic to our generation, and with me being a senior, myself, they feel less intimidated," he said. "Then, I kind of make it personal, myself."

He said he has seen the seniors in his class "make a transition from what they use to do, and what we're doing now."

By the time they're done with the current class, he said, he hopes they will know how to operate a computer, themselves, "without relying on their 10-year-old grandson or grandaughter for help."

Wednesday was the final day of the "Going Beyond The Basics" class, but Antoine said there are six levels of classes offered at the senior center, and classes are ongoing.

He said he also offers a free class on Thursdays, from 6 p.m., to 7:30 p.m., called, "Tech Talk," in which people can bring in their own computers and talk about the technical and other problems they're having with them. Participants must be 55, or older, to attend all computer classes.

For more information about classes offered at the Frank Bailey Senior Center, call (678) 479-5505.