Embracing the Digital Age

Senior’s Week begins on the 19th of August. To celebrate we are featuring blogs written by State Library volunteers. Here, Sue Edwards gives us her perspective on technology across the generations.

My very earliest contact with computers was seeing these “Whovian” like machines in the Engineering Building at UQ when I was a young student. A personal computer was indeed a rare thing. Fast forward to the 80’s, when a Commodore 64 resided in our house.

Not long after this, computers became more readily available and arrived in Queensland high schools. As a teacher I was advised by the school principal that I would be teaching “Computer Awareness” and was to receive a two day training course to prepare me for this. Just one small step ahead of the eager students, I diligently prepared myself before each lesson. At this stage, I had the upper hand. I knew more than they did – but not for long!

The 90’s came with an explosion of digital technology. Mobile phones, laptops, and computer games became common. At this time I started learning from my own children who took to new technology like ducks to water.

Here we are in 2017 and recently my nine year old grandson asked if I would watch and listen while he practiced his “talk” for school. Out came his laptop with a six-point PowerPoint presentation. I was instructed to press the space bar after each point. He did very well, but I did need to offer some advice. I reminded him that he was addressing an audience, and that he needed to make contact with them and not simply rely on the presentation of facts. The human element is still important!

Earlier this year I was asked to consider volunteering in the Digital Futures Laboratory. Having grown up before computers, smart phones and other digital devices were even invented, the nature of this exhibition scared me a little, but I thought “why not” – you are never too old to learn! In the Lab I have been introduced to all manner of tech. Experiences such as X Box Kinect, Virtual Reality, drone simulators and robotic therapy seals have entered my life. I have had many wonderful encounters with folk much younger than myself as I navigate these new experiences. The highlight would have to be my meeting a little boy from Toowoomba who asked me to put on the headset in order to experience what he had been seeing in Virtual Reality. He wanted me to be as excited as he had been!!

Petting Paro to sleep

Another favourite experience was with a group of Year 7 boys and girls on a school trip. The girls were nursing and stroking Paro, the robotic seal. The boys looking on were acting tough and giving the girls a hard time. When the girls moved to another part of the Exhibition a few of the boys came back and spent even more time cuddling and talking to Paro. I did enjoy that.

There have been many visitors to the Exhibition, young and old, whilst I have been on duty there. It has been interesting to talk with adult visitors about everything that Digital Futures prompts us to consider; but the excitement that the younger visitors demonstrate is what I appreciate most.

Sue Edwards – Volunteer