Research Proposal: Descriptive Study of the Barriers That Prevent Older Adults From Learning Computer Application Programs

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DESCRIPTIVE STUDY of the BARRIERS THAT PREVENT OLDER ADULTS FROM LEARING COMPUTER APPLICATION PROGRAMS

Adults have difficulty in learning computer application programs.

The purpose of this study is to discuss barriers to adult learning of computer programs including the quality of instruction provided by teachers as well as physical and mental barriers to adult learning of computer application programs.

The research questions in this study are those as follows:

(1) What physical and cognitive barriers present in adult learning of computer applications?

(2) What is the impact of the inability of older adults to learn computer applications?

(3) What impact does the instructor have upon the ability of older adults to learn computer application programs?

Limitations of the Study

The limitations of this study include the fact that this study will only be conducted among older adults taking computer application courses at the West Contra Coasta County Adult School. Secondly, because this study is of a qualitative nature the researcher will be required to make some inferences and there is the chance that some bias may exist on the part of the researcher since the researcher teaches computer applications for WCC Adult School.

Delimitations of the Study

Delimitations of the study will be a focus on adults over the age of fifty years of age and this study will discuss the educational significance of the study findings.

Methodology

The methodology utilized in this study will be one of a qualitative nature and will be in the form of surveys administered to older adults who are presently taking computer application courses at the West Contra Costa County Adult School.

Background of the Study

Two decades ago computer application programs were taught in practically every kindergarten class so that every student upon beginning first grade has some exposure to the computer and had gained at least some computer skills. One decade ago children entering kindergarten generally had already been exposed to the computer and its applications and programs and entered kindergarten with at least some computer skills. Presently, the norm is that children entering kindergarten are computer literate and many times more so than their parents. Use of computer application programs permeates society and the business world however; older adults are the one group of individuals who struggle to gain computer skills which, while not required, are very useful in business and in staying in contact with family and friends as well as being important in today's work environment. As the baby boomers near retirement age many of these individuals are not retiring but instead are returning in large number to the workforce and it is this factor that makes computer skills more than skills that are 'handy' but instead are becoming skills that are critically necessary to possess.

Theoretical Framework

Hypothesis Statement

(Note: Generally, hypotheses are not used in conducting qualitative studies because they are interpretive in nature and do not really work effectively in testing hypotheses in my experience writing. However, if you have formulated hypothesis/hypotheses for this study please email them to me for inclusion in this paper)

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Literature Review

The work of Taylor and Rose (2004) reports a study that was funded by the Adult Literacy Innovative Projects AMES Research and Learning Innovation in which research was conducted relating to strategies for older adult learning in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) learning. The focus of the study reported by Taylor and Rose (2004) was computer learning of adults over the age of 45 years of age relating to ICT learning and "potential barriers which can prevent these learners from engaging with and benefiting from learning in general and ICT programs in particular." (Taylor and Rose, 2004) Case studies are reported from four studies that focus on the older learner profile as well as a profit "of the skills, experiences and attitudes that are characteristics of teachers/trainers working successfully with older adults learning ICT and the top ten strategies for creating an effective learning experience for older learners." (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

Taylor and Rose report that the methodologies utilized in the studies which they report were those as follows: (1) a review of national and international research into older learners and strategies that support acquisition of ICT skills; (2) a field survey of older learners engaged in a range of ICT training contexts. The survey involved 50 learners engaged in formal and informal training in a range; of settings in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia; (3) interviews with teachers, trainers and program coordinators involved in the planning and delivery of ICT programs to older learners in both formal and informal settings in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia; and (4) case studies at four different training sites involving 78 learners in all, and five teachers, three of them also program coordinators. (Taylor and Rose, 2004) Practical strategies indentified in this study for the successful engagement of older learners with ICT which were identified by both teachers and learners alike include those in the following categories:

A. Computer Equipment and Technology

(1) Use a Data Project -- This is helpful because visual demonstration is supportive of the new learning style of many older learners including in the following ways: (a) immediacy of instruction or 'watch and see how it is done'; (b) supports low language and/or literacy levels; and (c) supports learners with sight impairments. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(2) Provide a well equipped and managed computer room -- When the computer fails to work learners become frustrated and disheartened and believe that it is their fault that the computer is failing. Good equipment that is reliable is important as is access to networks and the Internet. All these assist in maintaining the confidence of learners. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(3) Make computers available outside of regular class sessions -- this allows learners opportunities to practice their skills outside of scheduled class time. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(4) Demonstrate self-help strategies early in the course -- demystification of the hardware and demonstrating to learners that the computer is not easily broken by switching the computer off and by resetting the computer is important. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(4) Use of everyday metaphors to demystify computer concepts -- it is important that learners know there is nothing wrong in not knowing how a computer works and stated for example is "you don't need to know how to drop in a carburetor in order to drive a car." (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

B. Pace and Intensity

(1) Introduce new concepts through a carefully managed set of steps -- Many learners have not been engaged in formal ICT learning and this is new and unfamiliar to them. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(2) Presentation of new skills in small 'chunks' or 'sections' -- small steps allow learners time to digest the new information and allows them time to process and gain an understanding of new information. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(3) Reinforcement of skills from one week to the next -- This assists learners in making the connections and in applying them and as well in practicing previously learned skills. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(4) Be patient -- older learners often need more time as well as more repetition before they fully possess the new skill or information.

(5) Avoid the temptation to take over the mouse -- this is counterproductive with learners who often do not have the confidence and need to 'do it themselves'. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

C. Supporting Disadvantaged Learners -- Literacy and Age-Related Issues

(1) Assess learners to determine skill levels before they start a program and group learners with similar level skills - Pace is a key factor for older learners -- teaching ICT literacy to older learners may require time and patience. Time available to deliver a program can sometimes become an issue and this in turn can affect the pace of sessions or intensity of a program. This may disadvantage any learners with lower skill levels. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(2) Use volunteer helpers in the class - Having a range of support mechanisms for learners to get assistance when they need it helps deal with anxieties and fears on one level, and with 'fast learners' who are ready to move on to the next thing. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(3) Read out instructions from workbooks - This supports learners with literacy or sight problems. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(4) Demonstrate keystrokes and navigational aspects of ICT repeatedly - Learners may need visual demonstrations to find the required icons and the keys on their own keyboard. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(5) Use and/or create interactive PowerPoint presentations - Interactive PowerPoint presentation can illustrate specific aspects of computer operations, and can be very engaging to the visual learner. (Taylor and Rose, 2004)

(6) Be aware of any hearing and sight impairments in the group - Adjusting your voice/pace by speaking in a slow, loud, clear voice can help… [END OF PREVIEW]

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