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Technology: This isn’t your grandchild’s iPad

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

D’Ann O’Donovan of Murrells Inlet wants to learn how to get the most out of her new Samsung Android tablet.

She has signed up for a course at the Litchfield Exchange through Coastal Carolina University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. It’s a good thing she acted quickly after Christmas. Most of the courses on computer tablets are full.

“My grandkids don’t live close enough to keep me educated,” O’Donovan said.

She wants to find new uses for her tablet while keeping it secure. She plays solitaire on it but doesn’t care about other games. She downloads a few books for trips but prefers to hold a real book while reading at home.

“I have a lot to learn,” O’Donovan confides.

In the tablet world of Android tablets and iPads, she is not alone.

Some of the most popular classes in adult education are about new technology.

“A lot of these seniors are getting iPads as gifts,” said Sheila “Grandma” Griffith, who has written a book, “Grandma Talks Tech: Baby Boomers Take to iPads, Too!” and blogs about the subject on her website: grandmatalkstech.com, “Many have never had a computer at all or have limited experience, maybe with accounting or a word processing program in the workplace. They’ve never really experienced operating the computer itself.

“When you come into something like the iPad with so much to offer, they are overwhelmed. They don’t know what they can do with it. Their children tell them it’s great, you can do this and that and the other, but they don’t know where to start.”

Griffith and Ed Robidoux will teach courses on tablet use this winter at Coastal Carolina’s Waccamaw campus. The school has moved from Willbrook Boulevard to the Litchfield Exchange, and the transition is causing some course adjustments and delays.

“Seniors are trying to simplify their lives,” Robidoux said. “What can be simpler than a 2-pound device that has all your e-mails, photos and your music. I can sit on the beach and pop on my headphones and read a novel.”

Robidoux, a retired mechanical engineer, has only been a Mac user since 2007. His professional experience came on PC spreadsheets and Power Point presentations, but the Mac’s superior photo handling capabilities won him over after he got into photography as a retirement hobby.

“Beginners fear it because they don’t know what happens when they push that button,” he said, pushing a button on his own iPad. “If you don’t like it, press this button here. The biggest problem a senior has is remembering passwords.”

Robidoux says most students are fairly savvy. “They know what they’re doing,” he said. “They are looking for little tweaks on how to do things simpler or why this doesn’t work. Some people come in and they are just green. For them, we have a Green Apples class. It meets the first thing on Friday at 9 o’clock, and it’s for people who got one for Christmas and don’t know what to do.”

Robidoux gives students his favorite apps — most are free — and shows them the iPad’s possibilities. Face Time will let people talk face-to-face — it’s great for talking with a grandchild far away, he says. Users can read books, magazines and newspapers, though he says using an iPad only for an e-reader is a waste of money. They can pay bills, keep a calendar, do e-mail and Facebook and access photos and songs via iCloud. His only game is cribbage, but there’s no end to the variety of games, movies and TV shows available to an iPad user.

Robidoux has one iron-clad rule: don’t pay bills or shop at a public wi-fi spot, like the library or coffee shop. Hackers can get into your accounts there.

Youngsters have two advantages over seniors when it comes to computers, Griffith said.

“Kids know how to work them right off,” she said. “Kids have grown up with them, and they don’t have the money invested in them that adults do. Adults are paying a pretty penny. Kids have no such worry.

“Adults come wanting to learn more about what more they can do with it. A lot, when they first come, have no idea of how to turn it on and off.”

Even the on/off button can be tricky for the inexperienced, she said. Users have to hold it down to turn off their tablet. Otherwise, they are merely putting it to sleep.

Griffith, who lives at River Club with her husband, George, said she has worked with computers for over 25 years in various jobs. “I love tech,” she said. “I was always the go-to person when someone needed help with a computer. I had to learn out of necessity.”

Her first computer was the old Commodore 64. “They didn’t have hard drives,” she said. “Everything was on floppy. As the new ones came out, we upgraded. I had nobody to tell me what to do. I researched and learned and taught myself. I have worked with them and loved them.”

Griffith said she taught herself HTML code to build websites and even built a new computer after taking her own apart and reassembling it. Members of her family — she has two children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren — would never consider calling a professional repairman.

She was strictly a PC user until two years ago, when she switched to Mac. She has since ordered a Macbook Pro, an iPad and an iPad mini. “I prefer Macs now, really,” she said.

Her book about iPad usage just came out in December and she writes a blog on her website. Both were offshoots of her teaching.

A couple years ago, she told Waccamaw Learning Center Director Linda Ketron that an iPad course might be something to consider in the future. Ketron’s answer: “Why wait? Let’s do it now.”

The classes were so popular the school had to add more, Griffith said.

“I teach from soup to nuts,” she said. “They get keyboard shortcuts, things they don’t normally hear from their kids. They know a tablet is a large investment and they don’t want to waste it by not utilizing it to the fullest. The goal is to be on a par with their grandchildren and children.”

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