Lessons on Using a Smart Phone

I watched as she timidly touched the screen. The letter F appeared and her shoulders shrugged. “That’s OK. Touch the arrow with the x on it to take it away. Then try again. Try touching the screen a little higher to touch the T and not the F,” I instructed. I was talking with my mom, who next month will be 83. Today felt like a heroic move…she had just signed up to get the “bundle” from Verizon and also to retire her flip phone and pay $8 a month to have a Samsung Smart Phone.

Now that it was in her hand, we sat at the Verizon store. I wanted to ensure she could call me and text me before leaving the store. I suggested that she try typing a text message to me. Something like: Thank you for helping me get a new phone.

She kept trying. Soon the T was on the screen . But then a U, instead of an H. She was getting good at using the X arrow key to take away mistyped letters. Then THM was on the screen and another shoulder shrug. Soon, after lots and lots of tries and errors, she sent me this 3-lined text message:

Thanks for y
our time today.  I. Love

My afternoon with my mom reminded me how hard it is to learn something new, especially when it is so different from what you are used to. My mom was born in 1935 and grew up at a time when messages were spoken from one person to another when both were usually in the same room. She also recalls lifting the receiver to make a phone call but listening first to hear if the “party line” was free and then dial. She recalls phone numbers like the Glenn Miller song line, “PA6 – 5000” (spoken as Pennsylvania 6, 5000).

Now she carries her phone in her purse and hears it ring when someone is calling her or dings when someone sends her a text – a message without even needing to speak aloud. Yet, today, for a 1953 graduate of the Washington School for Secretaries, this touch screen mini-keyboard was providing a new challenge for her. Using just thumbs or her index finger, she persisted to type out her message.

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” As I watched my mom patiently try over and over again to send me and grandkids messages and try to call me using this new smart phone,  I so agree with him.

After an hour, we left the Verizon store, making plans to meet on Friday for another tutor session.  On our list: How to take a photo? How to send a photo? and we will review, How to answer the phone and how to send a text. I’m realizing many sessions are probably in my future as I think about How to use Google Maps? How to read gmail on the phone? How to reply to gmail? How to add emoji? So, so much!

I drive home, I’m proud of my mom. I’m also comforted in knowing that if she needs help before our next session, she can still call me on her landline phone.

9 thoughts on “Lessons on Using a Smart Phone

  1. mgminer says:

    I love this piece! It is a treasure. Just think what it might mean someday for your grandchildren to read great-grandma’s first text message! I can see you patiently teaching and your mom persevering. I can hear your laugh. A wonderful example of “growth mindset!”


  2. margaretsmn says:

    Once she gets the hang of it, I think your mom is going to love her new phone. It’s like a miracle to be able to communicate so quickly to so far away.


  3. Ms Victor Reads says:

    Ha, my dad has recently said that he is going to get a smart phone soon, but he does not want to give up his flip phone. He has an ipad already, so I like to think he will have a head start on adjusting, but… maybe not! WHat a sweet slice- I love all your future lesson plans!


  4. dianeandlynne says:

    I’m proud of your mom too. Change is hard at any age, and learning the ins and outs of a smart phone can be a steep learning curve. I can relate!


  5. Adrienne says:

    What a beautiful slice! I laughed when you said “Try touching the screen a little higher …” At first I saw lighter, not higher because my 86 year old mom presses screens they way she presses buttons: expecting to feel pressure and movement.


  6. Alice Nine says:

    This is a great slice to put in a family journal. I wonder what changes– I’m sure we can’t image them any more than she could have imagined a smart phone– will cause us steep learning curves and require tutoring sessions from our younger generation(s).


  7. mschiubookawrites says:

    Such braveness on both your parts! Now I know where you inherited your patience and open-mindedness when it comes to new learning. Bravo to you both. I also love how you listed all the follow up “lessons” needed with teacher eyes.


  8. Mukhamani says:

    She is wonderful to try and learn. many of my age group say they just cannot understand the smart phone and give up. My husband’s aunt is 83 and she is having great fun with WhatsApp. Yes, it is very important for us to try and keep up with the changes. Thank you for sharing and please convey my wishes to your mother. Regards.


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