I am a tech nerd. There was a time not long ago I loved to play with computers. I enjoyed tinkering with the computer itself, as well as playing with computer programming – just for the sake of doing it. I would spend hours on this stuff, proud of my accomplishments even though they had little everyday use.
Now, as I get older, I find that how I play with technology has changed. I’m more interested in what technology can do for me in my daily life. I’m more excited about that new calendar app for my phone because it can organize my day. I’m less excited about creating a computer from a USB stick just because I can.
Many people come to the library with the opposite problem. They have never played with technology. Now they need to do something and technology is standing in their way. We help many people through this situation. They may want to download a picture of their grandkid and send it to another relative. Or they may need to print, sign, and email an important document to an insurance company. In most cases those we help want to find out how they can learn more, so that they don’t have to go through the stress of learning under the pressure of needing to get something important done.
That’s why playing is crucial. People are very hard on themselves when they don’t understand technology. But technology is just the tool, and tools require practice to master. Most would not expect to be able to hammer a nail into a board for the very first time without bending the nail or missing it entirely. Why expect yourself to be able to scan and email a document with ease without ever having done it before? Rather, you would practice this skill by playing with it when the results don’t matter. When I was a kid my parents let me hammer nails into an old board for fun. Now, I’m certainly no carpenter, but I can do some minor repairs in a pinch.
Same goes for tech. If you play with technology when you don’t really need to, you will be much more comfortable when you do. This doesn’t mean doing anything overly complicated. It may be opening a social media account to reconnect with a long lost friend. If woodworking is your passion it may be finding articles online about building something and sharing those with someone who shares your interests. It may be finding an audiobook online and downloading it to your device to enjoy on your next road trip. In all these instances it doesn’t matter if you try and fail, because you can try again without it being a big deal.
This summer at Haliburton County Public Library we’ll be giving you a chance to play with tech at our Appy Hours. You can bring your own device, or try out some of our demonstration devices. Check out the summer calendar on our website for an Appy Hour near you.
*Originally published in County Life June 2016.