Wait, there is an arrow key???!?!
January 5, 2022 8:54 PM   Subscribe

I need YouTube tutorial videos for an older adult who has zero computer literacy. She needs to learn how to 1. Make a pdf from a photo and 2. Use google drive to upload and store documents online and 3. Use google sheets to manage a simple ledger. She doesn't know what "control c" means or that the key board has arrow keys or how to open a new tab in a window. There must be something out there. Help?
posted by Toddles to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about YouTube videos but is their help via your local Senior Center? Weekly classes or phone help.

To be completely honest, it's going to be difficult to take anyone with 'zero' computer literacy to the point where she can do those things that you mention. It will probably take appreciable amount of time. Is this for a job or something where she's expected to know this things more-or-less right away?
posted by TimHare at 9:43 PM on January 5, 2022 [7 favorites]

Youtube videos aren't going to work well, much in the same way that a giving a list of street directions to someone who doesn't know how to drive a car isn't going to work well. Users regularly click things they shouldn't, have questions about what they're doing, and web pages have a habit of changing things for no good reason. Also half the internet is purposefully designed to trick people into downloading malware / clicking on ads / providing terrible information.

In person instruction/assistance is the best, but if that's out of the question you can try a combination of screensharing, video conferencing, and talking on the phone along with a big helping of patience and experience how to do remote instruction/troubleshooting.
posted by meowzilla at 10:48 PM on January 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

The Secret Guide to Computers used to play some of that role back in the day, and it's still in print. I remember making photocopies of how to use X program from that book and then furtively referencing them while I was learning on the job. The back of the book said you could even call the author and ask what computer to buy if you needed help — and I did. And he gave me very good industry relevant advice, and I've never looked back.

It's also worth saying my parents didn't take up the computer till their 80s — and they did fine. The key is to make sure novices understand that they don't need to remember every single step, and they probably can't do much to "hurt" the computer. They just have to understand a few key concepts and how things are typically organized and keep applying them. The menus are here. We use these kinds of words in this kind of program. That's why if you know Word you also know Google Docs, etc. I'd get her a couple of books, actually. But I'd also teach her how to Google computer questions in one of her very first lessons if she doesn't know how to work something. That's what professionals do.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:13 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

It may help both of you to frame this as simply learning a new skill set, instead of bringing age or incredulity over her lack of knowledge into the equation. Her age doesn’t matter and not knowing there’s an arrow key is nothing to be ashamed of if you don’t have computer skills in the first place. If she’s at all anxious about her lack of computer skills, this likely isn’t helping.
posted by _Mona_ at 2:34 AM on January 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Libraries often have classes in basic computer literacy.
posted by NotLost at 4:57 AM on January 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Sounds like a handholding class where you look over the shoulder may be needed. I believe there were computer classes in local community centers with a bunch of PCs, but no idea if they kept it during COVID times.

A "For Dummies" book on basic computer literacy may help.
posted by kschang at 5:12 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have some research and professional experience in this area and I really don't think YouTube is the way to go. Older people who never used computers before retirement generally need (1) in-person, hands-on instruction at least once, (2) a very detailed reference sheet reminding them of the exact steps to take, and (3) specific instruction about how to handle unexpected pop-up dialogs (e.g., system updates), as these are such nightmares for anxious older users that I'd like to smack whoever invented them.

Older people are generally much better than young people at being methodical and following instructions exactly, and they are generally much worse than young people at adapting to minor interface changes or novel situations. Most older people could be completely thrown off if, for instance, the YouTube video shows a slightly older version of the program or app than the one they themselves are using. And they struggle with the pace of video tutorials and sometimes find it more difficult than you might expect to go back and rewatch something they missed.
posted by xylothek at 6:32 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: With respect to those who have answered so far, please just answer the question. I can not send an elderly person to an in person class during a pandemic. If I could, I would meet with them myself and go through this in person. To be clear what my question is: I am looking either for a good YouTube channel for beginners or specific videos on these three topics that will use basic terms so they can:
1. Make a pdf from a photo and 2. Use google drive to upload and store documents online and 3. Use google sheets to manage a simple ledger.

This person is actually quite smart and I think can follow a good video. Thank you.
posted by Toddles at 7:03 AM on January 6, 2022

Smart has nothing to do with it, and I hate to say it, but I doubt what you want will be possible, or easily possible.

I say this having the experience of working with older relatives and trying to get them online and comfortable with computers. For some people, at some stages of their lives, it's just too much.

I think you'd be better doing a log-me-in/remote control training session with this person, where you walk them through exactly the steps they'll need to take. Then you'll need to make clear notes (bullet points or a numbered list) of all the steps for each action.

Honestly, I suspect you'll be able to teach the first one (photos to PDF) if you just do a "simple" print-to-PDF process. As for the ledger on a Google Docs things, I think you're asking for the moon.

Look, I recently had a conversation with a very, very smart and still sharp senior relative who has had a computer for over 10 years now. I said something like "follow the link in the e-mail I sent you," and the reply I got back was "what's a link?" Now keep in mind, this person has spent ten years sending me links from YouTube, and I know they were taught was a link was in the senior's introductory computer course they took, but because they don't use that term on a daily basis and don't think of links using that term, the word was meaningless to them.

That same phone conversation also involved both of us getting frustrated with each other because I was trying to explain how to make text bigger (CTRL +) and smaller, and that person could not get what I was trying to say about the location (or existence) of the +/= button. A couple hours later, I got a phone call back saying "I found the button and fixed the text."

If you want to accomplish this, you're going to have to do this over an extended period of time and focus on one task at a time.
posted by sardonyx at 7:23 AM on January 6, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You might check out GCFLearnFree.org , which includes lots of videos on youtube as part of the learning: Online tutorials on everything from computer basics to social media. You can choose to follow a Lesson, click through an Interactive, take a quiz in the Extras, or watch a Video. It includes lessons on google drive and google sheets. Our local library recommends them as a resource, and recommends beginners start with Computer Basics, or at least components of that, as a refresher.

Your question on help for making a pdf from a photo would be easier to answer if you specify what software/method the person might be using.

With all that said, I do agree with sardonyx on this though: I think you'd be better doing a log-me-in/remote control training session with this person, where you walk them through exactly the steps they'll need to take.
posted by gudrun at 7:29 AM on January 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Are they Mac or Windows based?
posted by aielen at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Please tell her not to blame herself for any difficulty she has. Those challenges are due to guesswork by device/interface designers. They test, they iterate (no disrespect, designers!), but it’s still guesswork attempting to predict how a diversely skilled base of users will guess as they confront the screen’s elements to get something done. That’s two layers of guessing. They cant always design for the kind of guesses that perfectly capable people like her might make.

If a user’s intuition doesn’t match with the designer’s choices, the user can become confused, frustrated, and blame themselves when it’s not their fault. Learning a new way of doing these things isn’t difficult because users are incompetent or stupid; it’s difficult because design isn't ready yet to make it easy for all of us.
posted by conscious matter at 8:16 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have worked with an org focussing on delivering basic computer skills to elders and I also think this is a tall ask.

There's a lot of variances in the tasks you've outlined that would mean different instructions are required depending on the circumstances. Does she have a google account? Has she ever used a computer for anything? Has she used any other google products? Does she know what a pdf is? A drive? A folder? A file? A cell? A value? A browser? A window?

I'm just saying that it's not just about the immediate tasks. There are a huge amount of tiny processes and concepts underpinning all of them. You're asking a great deal of her to pick up activities that are entirely abstracted from any physical process. It's not just the task, it's the language, the whole context. Basically she will need a lot of hand holding to gain any degree of confidence however smart she is. A video is unlikely to deliver that.
posted by freya_lamb at 8:39 AM on January 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might check out GCFLearnFree.org , which includes lots of videos on youtube as part of the learning

Hello -- I teach older people how to use technology for a job, even during the pandemic and GCFLearnFree is a good resource that helps a lot of the time. I think part of the answer to this question, for me, would really be what your relationship to this person is and how much you are just trying to help them do a thing they have described to you and how much you can assist them in doing that thing. Because for things like Google Sheets, if you're a friend or family member, you setting it up and then emailing them a link would be better than walking them through setting something like this up with the formulas and stuff. This is one of the bigger things I work on with the people I work with: sometimes they just need something set up for them and they can use it, sometimes they want to do all the set up themselves. So it's the same with your question: does this person want to acquire these skills, or does this person just want to accomplish the tasks? Does this person have email? I'm sorry for a preamble but technology is really one of those things where there's often more to it than just "This user wants to do this task" because you have to know where the user is starting from.

So the Google Sheets/Drive questions are more straightforward because Google has some good help videos as do other people. I usually find the ones that are created for teachers to be really useful. Here is one that has Top Ten Tasks for Google Drive that is a little speedy but straightforward. Similarly here is one for setting up a ledger in Google Sheets. It's old but it's basic which seems useful. As I said above, I'd strongly suggest setting this up for them and then just walking them through how to use it.

Making a PDF from a photo is one of those things that has a bunch of decision trees attached to it depending on what they need to accomplish (printing it? emailing it? exporting it? uploading it?), what their operating system is, and where the photo is now. An OS-agnostic approach would be to put one into a Google Doc (video) and then export that doc as a PDF (video). The challenging part can be that there are SO many videos on how to do a lot of these, some of it will depend on the learning style of the person you are working with and whether you are looking for a one-and-done solution or are able to go back and forth with them on it.

I should also mention that some libraries do have Zoom classes and/or tech support even during the pandemic, mine does, so you'll want to see what other local resources this person may have.
posted by jessamyn at 8:49 AM on January 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Senior Planet has very good beginner computer training videos on their YouTube Channel. I didn't see any on your specific topics, though there are several about using GMail and about sharing photos to computer that I didn't watch all the way through, and might have some of the content you need. They also have Zoom classes about different tech issues so if you contact them perhaps they'll have something recorded they could share with your senior.
posted by assenav at 11:00 AM on January 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Each of those tasks builds on basic computer literacy. Adult Ed courses might have online courses. Every one of these skills requires basic file management skills, mostly, paying attention to where you're saving the file. I would teach the person to use desktop sharing, zoom, skype, there's an app in Chrome, etc., then coach them. If you end up using videos, make a schedule so you can be available to answer questions by phone. In the early stages of learning to use a computer, there are tons of simple questions that will impede progress.

Your library may have videos and/or access to online learning resources, and/or be able to take occasional phone questions.

I used to teach adult ed. and library Intro. to Computing courses. The textbooks were really good, building on skills in a logical order, repeating/ reinforcing important skills. So, look for an Intro To Computing workbook. If you post on freecycle, someone will have one from a course they took. It was ages ago that I taught, so no recommendations, but call Adult ed. and the library to ask for recommendations.

1. Make a pdf from a photo. Pick you pdf app, coach on that specifically.
2. Use google drive to upload and store documents online I use google drive, directory and file management is not super user-friendly, so set up the system, adhere to it.
3. Use google sheets to manage a simple ledger. Very early in my use of computers, I was introduced to spreadsheets, and because I had used actual paper spreadsheets, that was the most intuitive thing to learn. Bookkeeping is all about add, subtract, sum columns and rows, so learning specific stuff works.
posted by theora55 at 12:26 PM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

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