Mon, 22 Jul, 2019

Teaching Technology to My Grandmother

By Sushil Awale

Picture Courtesy: Sushil Awale

Every day when I leave my house, one thing I never forget to carry is my cell phone. It has become an extended, detachable part of my body. I use it as much as I use my hands. With the seamless use of the cell phone, I have taken for granted, the fact that it is a skill possessed by a few percent of the Nepalese population.

When I tried to teach my 72-year-old grandmother how to facetime, I realized how a big a technological gap there was between the old and new generation. My grandmother can easily use the landline, and for an illiterate person, that is a major thing. However, she was struggling with her newly gifted smartphone as it had no buttons. She couldn’t grasp the idea of the touch screen. She was treating virtual tabs on the cell phone just as the buttons of a landline telephone- pressing it long and hard.

Learning to use the cell phone is more of a necessity for my grandmother than a luxury. My aunt and her family live halfway across the globe, and to constantly keep in touch, she needed to learn how to facetime. Every weekend, I went to her house to set up a video call with my aunt. But, with my busy schedule, I couldn’t make it all the time. I felt guilty when I couldn’t make it. Although, she never said it out loud, I could feel the disappointment in her voice. Moreover, after every call, she requested me to keep the photo viewer running so that she could view her grandchildren’s photographs in her leisure time. This act got me emotionally motivated to teach her how to use the smartphone.

Firstly, I started with the basic concept of a home screen and then moved on to teach how to access an app. This part was quite straightforward, and she memorized the steps. Soon she started to repeat it with ease. I felt this would be very easy. Then, I moved on to teach her to switch between apps, especially between the facetime apps and photo viewer. She grasped that quickly as well. Within minutes, she was using the phone as a veteran. I felt proud of her.

One week later, I went on to check how she was doing. When I asked her, if she had made any calls during the weekdays, she smiled, and replied, “I forgot the steps.” I had no reply to those words. We stared at each other, not knowing what to do. I was in a dilemma, whether to teach her again or not. Judging by her act, she didn’t seem interested in learning.

I wondered why they call it a smartphone. It can’t even teach my grandmother how to facetime. I started thinking of building the smartest phone- one that my grandmother could use with ease. Meanwhile, she came in from the kitchen with some lunch, and asked me, “So, will you be coming next week as well?”