Technology is both magical and daunting. It gives us the ability to do so many wonderful things – apps that measure your heart rate, show the constellations in your night sky, and stream radio from anywhere in the world. But with that comes the challenge of keeping up with our devices, new features, apps and websites – not to mention when things go wrong. For those eager to move beyond the basics of email and Google, we believe these 7 tech skills are key to getting the most out of technology – both today and going forward.
Who would have thought that dictation would be a contemporary tech skill? Every device, from computer to smartphone now has the capability to turn your speech into text. Speech recognition, also known as voice-to-text, has improved dramatically, providing a wonderful alternative to the awkwardness of using an onscreen keyboard. Even commands can be spoken (“open email”…”send a text”).
At first, speaking text or commands into a smartphone or tablet takes a bit of practice and may feel like patting your head and rubbing your stomach (think what you want to say…tap microphone icon…speak…tap ‘done’…repeat). But with a little practice it quickly becomes natural.
Going Forward: More and more devices have voice features, including virtual personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Windows’ Cortana, and Google Now. These programs recognize natural speech patterns making it easy to get driving directions, find a restaurant or play music. The Amazon Echo, for example, is exclusively voice activated. Request it to play music or news, or current weather. It can be paired with devices to control your home environment. And importantly, voice commands are empowering for users with vision impairment or physical limitations such as a tremor.
Basic internet searching is pretty simple – just plugging in a few words will usually get you what you need. But having good search skills is like having a super power. Find an old email with a favorite recipe, locate a ‘missing’ App on your smartphone, or locate a specific phrase in a document or website.
Going Forward: Using search is more than the internet. Rather than trying remember where Microsoft, Apple or Google hid a particular setting, use the search feature on your device (e.g., printer setup). Apple has even added a search feature on iPad and iPhone for settings alone – an nod to the frustration that many of us have experienced trying to locate a feature.
We are often asked about the advantage of texting versus email. The appeal of texting is in the immediacy – like a non-verbal phone call. There are far fewer steps to sending (and receiving) a text message, and much greater likelihood that the recipient will see the text right away (assuming, of course that their cell phone is at hand…). Texting is a great way to communicate on the fly.
Going Forward: You can use text messages to access and manage online accounts, send a photo, receive emergency alerts, schedule airport pickups, and more. If you’re running late, need to send a phone number, or don’t have time for email to load, texting lets you get in touch quickly. And now iPhone will allow you to send a voice recording text – one more way to avoid typing on that small screen.
All devices have “accessibility features” that help you make your computer, tablet, or smartphone easier to touch, see, and hear. You can make icons bigger/bolder on smartphones, increase the font size on email, and increase the size of the mouse “pointer” on your computer screen (something TechMoxie recommends to all our clients).
Importance Going Forward: These features help us accommodate for what may be poor tech design, but also help as we age and need a little “extra” to see and hear better.
Access to transportation is freedom. With Uber, reasonably priced transportation is available with a few taps on the app. Your credit card information is stored when your account is set up and all payment is done through the app. And Uber’s no tipping policy means that at the end of the ride, cash nor credit card need be presented. The Uber app shows available cars in your area, giving you immediate information on the wait time for a car (which in even suburban neighborhoods may be only a few minutes).
Importance Going Forward: Using Uber is increasingly essential to older adults who may not wish to drive at night, or may want to not keep a car at all. It is also a great emergency back up transportation mode in the event of a car breakdown or bad weather. Tip: try using an Uber when you don’t need to so you will be ready when you really need to get somewhere.
Mobile devices come loaded with a great assortment of apps, but there the fun really begins when you find apps that leverage your interests. Downloading an app is not particularly difficult, but entails recalling the (correct) password and knowing how to occasionally update credit card information.
Getting comfortable with apps is a key skill, particularly as entertainment, health and the latest innovations are available via apps on smartphones and tablets. Beyond pure fun, there are many practical apps such as for paying parking meters, making dinner reservations and ordering an Uber.
Curiosity…we think this is why technology comes so easily to children. They are naturally programmed to explore through touch, to ask questions, and to practice. If you want to stay up-to-date, let your curiosity loose. Try tapping unfamiliar icons and let yourself play (really…it won’t break!). As you master the first six skills, you’ll find that new innovations will be easier as they build on your existing skills.