Teaching parents how to use a computer

Our parents have mastered using cell phones – it's time to familiarise them with the final boss: the computer. For parents who are new to technology, the learning curve is steep. Progress is slow, and you'll need to take this one step at a time.

Level One - The Power Button

The hunt for the power button is the first hurdle. Bear in mind that things that come to us easily might not be half as easy for people who are two and a half decades older than us. "How does it turn on?" is a question I've heard too often to keep count on.

The solution was simple. Tape a piece of paper with "Power" written on it followed by an arrow directed at the power button. They won't need to look for the button anymore.

Level Two - Crack the Keyboard

The concept of a keyboard is simple. You press the buttons and the computer responds.

There's a catch, however. The buttons are all over the place. Parents will need to scan through all the jumbled-up letters to find the one that they are looking for. This step plays like a broken record until the sentence is complete.

This can be really frustrating. Cheer them on, don't let them give up. Encourage them to type with more than one finger at a time. Dictate sentences so they can practice typing.

Special buttons need labels. The texts on the keys are small. Help your parents out by writing the names of the keys in block letters and sticking them on the keyboard. They will never forget which one is the spacebar. I assure you.

Level Three - Detour

The "Start" menu is a rabbit-hole that's best avoided. Chances are your parent's activities on the computer will be limited to a few applications at most, so this is unnecessary.

Pin shortcuts to the taskbar. Pin shortcuts to the desktops. Ensure the icons are large enough to be spotted from the other side of the living room.

Need Zoom? Taskbar. Can't find Chrome? Taskbar. Looking for important documents? It's right there on the desktop space.

Follow these pointers and you'll be able to avoid the "Where is it?" route.

Level Four - Elixir of Recollection

The human brain has a nasty habit of forgetting things. There were times where my mother would forget the things I showed her the very next day.

Write an instruction manual using diagrams. For example, I drew diagrams of the minimise, maximise, and close icons on a window and wrote down what they do.

Ditch jargon, and explain things as simple as possible, so they won't need to ask twice. Quiz them. Ask, "What do you think you should do next?" This will help them recall information better.

Level Five - The Final Boss 

For our parents, learning how to use the computer isn't as easy as riding a bike. It's a process that's going to take weeks or even months. Be patient. Be there for them. Tweak their curriculum to fit their needs.