IT Students Help Senior Citizens Join the Digital World

Posted by on February 26, 2014

Think about the last time you bought a new television and its accompanying devices. How many hours did it take you to read the manual, identify the various inputs and outputs, and finally set up the system? Wouldn’t you have loved bringing home the technician for the job?

Tony Shank demonstrates digital programming menu

Lucky senior citizens at the Good Shepherd Community in Sauk Rapids, Minn. experienced just that when information technology (IT) students from Minnesota School of Business (MSB) volunteered recently to assist them with new technology in their apartments and private rooms.

IT program chair Tom Polinceusz helped arrange the project because he felt it was a great opportunity for his students to grow.

“They could practice not only technical skills but also practice interacting with customers,” he explains. He adds that IT association leaders also learned project management skills such as: “planning, communication, overcoming obstacles and delivering positive results at the end.”

Kim Hennen appreciated that she and her peers fulfilled a need, “going into the clients’ apartments and making sure that they had all the new digital channels that were added with the new Direct TV package at Good Shepherd.” Seniors were confused between analog and digital systems and how to program remotes.

Although the technical work seemed fairly basic to the students, the day was not without its challenges. Hennen said it was often difficult “determining how each TV worked. There was not a standard TV, so each menu was different. Not only that, but each TV did the scan differently, so sometimes it was hard to determine what needed to be done.”

Information technology student Tony Shank agreed that the toughest part of the job was the different systems. It required patience and extra time. But he feels his reward was in the reaction from the people. “You got to know people in a short time. They appreciated it—like they couldn’t do it without you.”

“There was one guy,” he said. “I programmed his VCR. He thought it was a foreign object, and I had Yoda powers or something.”

Hennen agreed that the reward is found in the gratitude of the residents and knowing they can now be able to enjoy better quality television.

“Seniors are so patient!” she said. “There was one where we were having trouble getting all of the stations to pick up properly. We apologized for how long it was taking, but she didn’t mind at all. She understood that some TVs were picky and told us to just take our time.”

Hennen also appreciates that the experience helped prime her for her future career. “Communication skills are key when you are trying to explain what you are doing to someone who has no idea how to do anything more than turn on the TV and change the channels.”

Although Shank admits that customer service isn’t his favorite part of the job, he concedes, “if I’m going to be dealing with customers, this is important.”

Residents at Good Shepherd are very pleased that expert technicians made their days just a bit more modern and convenient.

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