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Teen ‘techies’ help adults relate to their technological toys

Lynn Flynn had some questions about her laptop. Luckily, some technologically savvy teens had the answers.
Flynn, 58, noticed there was a “Techie Geek Squad” program listed in the winter edition of the Aurora Public Library’s @ your library newsletter that she received in the mail. So on a cold Sunday in January, she trekked over to the Eola Road Branch Library and laid out her questions.
Flynn was so pleased with the way the teens helped her that she penned this email to the library:
                “I would like to thank the high school “techies” who, on Sunday, Jan. 12, were available to answer all the questions I had about my laptop computer. I had been unable to use it until these young adults showed me how to operate it. They were patient teachers to those of us less knowledgeable about modern technology. No question was considered “dumb” to them.  In  addition, I observed that our tutors were not only respectful toward us, but respectful of EACH OTHER, as well. I want you to know that a very special group of young people gave up their Sunday afternoon for us and how much I appreciated their assistance. I hope the Eola Library continues to have these technology sessions in the future because I plan to purchase an iPhone and would rather speak to one of these young people than AT&T Customer Service. Please keep me on your mailing list. I will return!”
Angie Baugher, teen librarian at the Eola Road Branch, said when she was approached with the idea of teens teaching adults how to use their technological gadgets, she wasn’t sure it would work. After all, she reasoned, the library already offers computer classes.
But when her Teen Advisory Board (TAB) members said they would like to give it a try, she scheduled some Sunday afternoon help sessions. (The TAB is a group of students who meet regularly at the library to brainstorm programs, rack up volunteer hours and have fun.)
“The sessions work really well because the information that people would get from a computer class might not hit on just what they need,” Baugher said. “They want a one-on-one experience.”
Sanjay Rao, a 17-year-old Metea Valley High School junior, said he enjoys helping people with their computer conundrums.
“Our TAB came up with the idea that there’s new technology and gadgets out these days and a lot of the time, features of this technology can be overwhelming,” Rao said. “As kids, we have been immersed in technology all of our lives. We thought this was a good opportunity to educate the public about it.”
Rao is involved with the iSTEM (Integrative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Club , the WYSE (World Wide Youth Science and Engineering) Team, and the Math Team at Metea Valley.
“For me, and I think a lot of the people on the TAB, it’s just fun. We have had the opportunity to be around technology for so long that it’s really second nature,” Rao said. He added that he isn’t nervous that he won’t know the answer to a question.
“In a tech gadget session at the end of last year, a man asked a question and I had to do some research, but I was able to find a solution,” he said. “If I do not know something, I will ask around and will refer the person I’m helping to another resource. It’s really a community-like atmosphere.”
“The kids are great about it,” Baugher said. “It seems to come naturally for them to show someone else how to do something. The adults who come in really need one-on-one attention and the kids often find out that they have more than just one question about their device. They hear everything from “How do I set up an email account?” to “How do I get my phone to ring instead of vibrate?”
Baugher said the adults who so far have attended the sessions (the first session was in November, 2013) are “gung-ho” and excited to learn. “The adults come in with the attitude that these young people are going to know what to do with their mysterious devices. It’s nice for young people to see that older people think they are really knowledgeable.”
Flynn was accompanied by her boyfriend, Terry Elliott, 65, of Crown Point, Indiana. “The Tech Gadget squad of young people instructed Terry on how to better operate his new iPhone and assisted him in obtaining several new apps,” Flynn said, adding, “I think on the next Tech Gadget Day, I may bring in my car’s GPS for assistance updating the system using my laptop.”
The next “Tech Gadget Help” Day (formerly “Techie Geek Squad”) is from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9 in the Multipurpose Room. Gadget Help days also are scheduled for March 9 and April 6. All are welcome to bring gadgets and questions to the Eola Road Branch, 555 S. Eola Road, Baugher said. There is no need to register for the drop-in program. And like all library programs, there is no charge.
Currently four of the TAB’s 15 members volunteer to staff the help sessions. They are: Sanjay Rao, Nirmal Mulaikal and Sweta Kotha of Metea Valley High School and Shivika Ahuja of Waubonsie Valley High School.
Call 630-264-3400 and ask for Angie Baugher for more information.

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