Being open to exploring ways to develop the computer skills of the elderly population was the key to being a helpful instructor for the online Virtual World called Second Life. Second life is a free website where users of all ages create an avatar to participate in activities that prevent cognitive decline and increase brain health. For the past 7 weeks via Skype and one in-person meeting at Starbucks, I was able to teach more than the basics of navigating the computer to my senior named Marilyn. With practice and patience, Marilyn and I were able to enjoy exploring the various programs of Inspiration Island and learned how to overcome challenges while having fun.
In order to prepare working as a Second Life instructor, my peers and I would meet online in Second Life to work with our supervisor, Lynne. We would all review the module lesson and practice sitting, chatting, writing in notecards, taking pictures, and other animations to prepare ourselves to teach our seniors. I found this preparation to be very helpful because I could ask Lynne questions and make improvements on how I navigate my avatar to finish the lesson in an efficient manner. Then I would share what I learned to my senior, Marilyn. While working with Marilyn, I first reviewed our previous lesson and then built upon her knowledge by teaching her the new lesson. I needed to make sure I was very clear and explained everything step by step when guiding Marilyn so that way we can both be on the same page. I always made sure I remained upbeat and positive during the sessions so Marilyn feels happy while learning especially when she had a few moments of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content to learn. At the end of the session, Marilyn and I would share our thoughts on how we think we could improve our experience for the next session the following week. This was very helpful to debrief with her because I could better understand where she is having trouble understanding how to have more control with the functions of Second Life. Listening to Marilyn’s feedback helped me learn how I can further help her and allowed me to get to know her strengths and areas of improvement.
As a result of working with Marilyn, I know that there is a lot of possibility of teaching the elderly about technology. Seeing Marilyn smile and get excited about exploring the virtual world was very inspiring to me because I noticed how much she appreciates learning. This shows that with enough encouragement and patience, the older population can learn about technology. Running into a few issues and lots of repetition in a kind and gentle manner helped Marilyn learn a lot more especially since she is a visual learner. Marilyn and I loved working with each other in Second Life. If one way of accomplishing a task did not work, Marilyn and I would find an alternative. For example, if walking with our avatars did not work to travel from one area to another on Second Life, we could fly, ride a horse, run, ride on a magic carpet, or teleport, which was the best option for most of the time. Although our meetings were mainly online, I learned that what really matters in connecting with someone to help them learn virtually is openness to new ideas, genuine interest, and problem solving. Therefore, Second Life is a solid and reliable way to keep the minds of the elderly active while having fun with art, music, photos, and psychology.