Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oral History and Reminiscing

The Cool Librarian blogged about a new web 2.0 service called Voice Thread. This new free service allows people to upload pictures and audio about the picture. You can invite other people to view the voice thread and they can leave a text or audio comment.The Voice Thread website has a tutorial and the process seems to be fairly easy and straight forward.

Many libraries have hosted oral history projects on their websites (for example the New York Public Library video oral histories and the Hillsborough County Library System audio oral histories). I like the idea of bringing together historical photographs with an audio comment by the person who donated the photograph. If one hosted the photos on Voice Thread, one has the additional benefit of allowing comments from other patrons - either written or audio. It provides an increased level of social interaction and dialogue about the past. Such a project may interest local history enthusiasts and genealogists. It also could be used to encourage intergenerational oral history projects and promote discussion between older adults and teens. I am really excited about libraries creating content for patrons - especially local content.

Another idea for library use of a Voice Thread is to post a picture of a popular book and allow patrons to give an audio or text review of the book. This could be an addition to a traditional face-to-face book discussion. In this way, libraries could start to build a virtual community of patrons (a cornerstone of the Library 2.0 philosophy).

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Video of "Connecting the Disconnected"

Carol Bean recently posted links to her presentation at the American Library Association pre-conference workshop on Libraries, Older Adults and Technology. These video clips show the challenges which older adults face when learning new technology terms and how to use new technology. Her points include:

    • Old word associations make it harder for older adults to learn technology terms, such as icon, button, and menu.
    • Older adults may have more difficulty in maintaining concentration.
    • Visual problems and hearing difficulties are additional challenges.
We are so used to the technical terms and the user interface for computers, that it is often hard to remember what it was like to be a novice user. This presentation is especially helpful because it simulates the experiences of older adults, so that one can empathize with the challenges that they face. Then, we can take this information into account when teaching older adults.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tips for Older Adult Computer Classes

Jessamyn West, a rural librarian, recently posted a video showing her teaching a computer class to older adults at the Tunbridge Public Library.

Here is a picture of her class that she posted on Flickr

She also posted suggestions for librarians who are trying to decrease the digital divide in older adults. Here are some of her suggestions and my comments:

1) "Encourage people to get laptops." and
2) "Invest in wifi."
Jessamyn pointed out that people can then use the library's wi-fi to connect with the internet if they can not afford Broadband service at home. She mentioned that learning and practicing on the same computer is very helpful for people. I agree that wifi is definitely a selling point for libraries. In addition, since people can bring their computer to the library, it is easier for staff to answer any questions that the patron has about their computer. Librarians do not have the time or resources to go to patrons homes and fix their computer problems, but we can do simple troubleshooting for patrons, if they bring in their laptop.

3) "Solve Problems"
I wholeheartedly agree with Jessamyn that having an informal, open class for general tutoring and answering problems is very important. Formal classes are great for people who want to learn a particular skill, such as word processing. However, if a patron just wants the answer to one question, it is not convenient for them to wait through an entire computer class. This class also provides an avenue for patrons to ask questions not generally covered in the courses provided by the library.

4) "Larger groups"
Jessamyn recommends teaching classes with multiple students (2 or 3). Her reasoning is that older adult patrons will be less stressed if the teacher is not focussed solely on them and that having a more social atmosphere is more conducive to learning. I agree that many, though not all, older adults will feel more comfortable in small groups. However, if the group gets too large, then I feel that some patrons will not be able to get the personalized help that they need - which can also lead to stress.

I would like to add another suggestion about teaching computer skills to older adults. If my students seem to be following along and understanding everything well, I have a tendency to add too much information - which can lead to information overload. It is important to fight this tendency! Instead, it is much better to reinforce a few steps during the class and have people practice those steps many times, rather than to try to cover a lot of content.

Also, several of my students have told me that they feel much more comfortable and confident if they have a printed list of straightforward steps for a particular task, which they can keep and continue to refer to as needed. It can be overwhelming to new computer users to try to memorize all the steps to a task. If the teacher has been using a computer for many years, it is easy to forget how much there is to memorize and how foreign the computer terms and menus can be for a new user.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Console gaming for Older Adults - not just for teens

The GenBetween blog mentioned a Boston Globe article by Robbie Brown about Nintendo marketing their Wii gaming console to older adults. Nintendo donated their Wii system to over a dozen retirement communities throughout the country to stimulate interest in the gaming console. According to the article, "For seniors who can't play sports any more, the Wii approximates the motion of the games they once enjoyed. It requires players to swing a motion-detecting controller like a golf club, bowling ball, tennis racquet, or other piece of athletic equipment." In addition, Digital Trends blog announced that Nintendo has recently introduced a brain game for the Wii, called "Big Brain Academy: Wii degree", which is being marketed to all age groups. The New York Times reported that Nintendo has started to showcase its Wii games at AARP events such as Life@50+.

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of articles about older adult gaming. For example, a recent post from the Last100 blog quotes Nintendo as stating that in households which own a Wii, "... 3/4 of men 25-to-49 have tried the Wii and 1/3 play it regularly. Of men more than 50 years old, half have tried it and 1 in 8 play games daily. Ten percent of women over 50 report playing the Wii regularly."

Many libraries are adding video games and gaming tournaments to attract teenagers to the library (see the Game on: Games in Libraries blog). However, games can also be used for older adult programing in libraries and in outreach. A PLABlog post lists Wii gaming as one of the examples of creative programming for older adults discussed at the "Programming Not Just for Boomers" presentation at the ALA 2007 conference. Leslie Farrell, from the Library2.0 social network, also pointed out Jenny Levine's presentation on Gaming in the Library which mentions older adult gaming along with teen gaming.

If a library is going to invest in a gaming console, it makes sense to encourage participation by patrons of all ages. Gaming programming can be for the whole family. Have any of your libraries hosted gaming tournaments? If so, were any of the programs targeted to families or older adults? Have any of your libraries used gaming consoles, such as the Wii system, for outreach to senior centers or assisted living facilities?

Note: I posted a followup to this post "More Wii gaming for older adults".

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

CDC Website for Older Adults' Health Statistics

The ResourceShelf blog recently mentioned a great new resource for older adult health statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has started an information page for older adult health called Data and Statistics on Older Americans. This page includes links to the National Home and Hospice Care Survey, the National Nursing Home Survey, the State of Aging and Health in America, 2007 Report, and the Older Americans Update 2006: Key Indicators of Well Being. Another useful CDC page is the Health Information for Older Adults page, which gives recommendations for how to stay healthy, information about infectious diseases, immunizations, common older adult injuries, mental health, and links to Medicare information.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Web 2.0 for Older Adults - Online support groups

A recent TechCrunch post described the new online social network called "Our Health Circle". This social network allows people to start public or private discussion and support groups for all types of health problems. It is also useful as a site for support for caregivers. For example there are discussion groups for people who care for their elderly parents. Online support groups may be especially helpful for older adults who have mobility issues and can not attend face to face support group meetings and discussions about their health problems. Learning about how others cope with a medical condition and being able to discuss their condition can give people hope and decrease their stress.

As librarians we can gather resources for older adults and their caregivers and inform our patrons about them. Linda Lucas Walling's "Library Services to the Sandwich Generation and Serial Caregivers" is a useful library publication for caregivers, but since this was published in 2001, there are many additional online resources and blogs for caregivers that are now available.

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