Teens teach seniors: Computer 101

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LEWISTON – Romeo Michaud and Ted Snook leaned into a computer Wednesday as Michaud pointed at the screen.

“I got up to here, and I want to get into the Internet,” said Michaud, 74.

“OK. You have to double click,” tutored Snook, 17.

“Oh, double click. I have to put that in my instructions,” Michaud said as he wrote it down in his notebook. He tried to double click, but the file wasn’t opening.

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Snook came to the rescue.

“See how this is highlighted? Once it’s highlighted, just one click and that’ll open it.”

“All right,” Michaud said with a grin as his Newsweek story appeared on the screen.

He is a member of the Lewiston Public Library basic computer class for seniors, taught by teens. The free, drop-in, one-on-one class will be offered from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Aug. 8.

The goal is to help senior citizens learn how to use computers and to give high school students a turn at teaching.

“I’m illiterate when it comes to this computer thing,” Michaud said. He came to class because when he reads magazines and newspapers, the articles direct him “to go to for more information. I’ve got to learn how to go to.”

Claude Gagnon, 68, of Lewiston, was at another computer being helped by students Deanna Morency and Laura St. Pierre.

He was a computer “greenhorn” when he began the classes, Gagnon said.

“Now I’m on the Internet,” he said. He added a printer to his home computer after the teens told him how. “Now I know how to download pictures and store them and print them.”

His teachers “are terrific,” Gagnon said. If one doesn’t know an answer, “they talk to each other and come up with the answers.”

Computer lessons for seniors was the idea of Cathy Snook of Auburn, a mother of three students who attend Cheverus High School in Portland.

At the Portland Public Library Snook noticed how seniors frequently asked for help at computers. At the Lewiston library she noticed there were few seniors using computers.

“Given our older population, I thought there must be a need out there,” Snook said. She approached the Lewiston library with an idea of teens volunteering to teach seniors basic computer skills.

Librarians were delighted with the offer.

Snook said she’s counted on her three teens and their friends, a group of about 10 local students who went to St. Joseph’s Elementary School together, to teach the classes.

The kids volunteer their time to help seniors with whatever questions they have. “Some come in and ask how to download music on their iPods,” Snook said. Others want to learn how to e-mail, do searches, turn on the computer and learn how to move the mouse.

This is the second summer students have taught seniors, said reference librarian Ellen Gilliam. “It’s terrific. This really is the brainchild of Cathy and her kids. They put it together. Having students come in and do this is great. It fills a need.”

The class is “the best marriage of community activism and the library’s mission,” which is education, Gilliam said.

After this summer’s last class on Aug. 8, Snook said she hopes a high school club is able to take over the project, possibly offering it during the school year.

For more information about the Lewiston Public Library basic computer class for seniors, call librarian Ellen Gilliam at 784-0135, extension 217.

Or, as Romeo Michaud says: go to: http://www.lplonline.org/ and click on “upcoming events.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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