The trouble with going from Windows Vista to Windows 8

As a reminder, in our ICT classes, we taught older adults in CCRCs to use computers and the Internet utilizing Sony Vaio laptop computers that had

Study participants logging onto their computers, which are running the Windows Vista operating system

Figure 9.2 Study participants logging onto their computers, which are running the Windows Vista operating system.

the Windows Vista operating system installed (see Figure 9.2). At the start of our study in 2009, Windows Vista was a widely used operating system, and thus we felt comfortable in teaching residents to use this system— given that it was a system they might encounter elsewhere, such as on the computers of friends or family—as well as constructing a training manual that, in our mind, would likely not need much updating over the course of the study (as we did not anticipate switching to a different operating system). Like previous Microsoft operating systems, Windows Vista was simple to use. At the bottom left-hand corner of the computer screen, there was an icon that represented the Start button; by clicking on this icon (which usually just looked like a button with the Microsoft emblem in the middle), a menu (the Start menu) would open at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen with a list of programs and folders. From this menu, a person could access almost anything the computer had to offer.

Because of the ability for a user to access a computer's programs through the use of the Start button and Start menu, we emphasized the importance of the Start button in every class in our training sessions (see Figure 9.3). We spent a lot of time and effort teaching the participants of our study on the first day of classes how to use the mouse to click on the Start button and explaining to them what the Start menu was and what they could find there. In every subsequent training session, we would review this procedure and in fact even quiz the participants on the names of the icon and menu and when they were to be used. As an example, a popular quiz question was to ask participants at the beginning of class how to access the Internet from the desktop screen; by the end of the study, most participants would yell out in unison, "Go down to the bottom left and click on the Start button! And then click where it says 'Internet' in the Start menu!"

Instructor showing a study participant where the Start button is located on a laptop running the Windows Vista operating system

Figure 9.3 Instructor showing a study participant where the Start button is located on a laptop running the Windows Vista operating system.

This is how we progressed in each new CCRC we went to and conducted training sessions. And, because the Windows Vista operating system was unchanged, still popular, and still widely used in the beginning years of our study, we never encountered a major issue that led us to make major modifications to our training sessions or to our training manual in the middle of an 8-week training.

This changed, however, with the introduction of Windows 8. The Windows 8 operating system was released to the general public in 2012 and featured a completely new organizational and visual style compared to earlier Microsoft products. The Windows 8 operating system, rather than just updating the look and feel of previous Windows systems, instead opted to mirror the operating systems becoming popular on mobile and tablet technologies (in these systems, because there is no mouse or keyboard, programs are clustered together in different folders and packages usually located somewhere on the home screen of the device). A major change between Vista and Windows 8 was the elimination of the Start button that, in Vista, was always located at the bottom-left corner of the computer screen. Without a Start button, there was no Start menu, and to the uninitiated it was somewhat confusing as to where to locate a needed computer program.

This posed a problem for our ICT trainings in 2013. At one particular location, a resident purchased her own laptop computer for personal use and wanted assistance with learning to use it. Without seeing the laptop, our training staff initially assured her that we would be more than happy with assisting her during our office hours sessions and that all she needed to do was to bring the laptop with her to the session. Anytime a resident had a personal computer he or she wished to learn about, we would ask him or her to bring it to office hours rather than to class. When she arrived at the office hours session and opened her laptop, the first question out of her mouth was, "Well.. .where's the Start button?" As it turned out, her new laptop was running the Windows 8 operating system, and we had to tell her, "There is no Start button."

Things were further complicated in that the visual look of the Windows 8 operating system was completely different from that of Windows Vista, and the participant had a lot of trouble navigating without becoming confused (much of what she learned in class, such as where to find certain things on a screen, was no longer applicable). The fact that our training manual did not provide any instructions on using Windows 8 added to the complications, as the participant had nothing to take home with her to practice. Unfortunately, many new devices, software programs, and applications do not come with written documentation to help individuals, particularly older adults and less tech-savvy people, effectively learn to use them. Luckily for us, the participant was very understanding—she was aware that her new computer was truly new and that our training program was not designed to teach this new technology. Despite this, we asked her to keep coming to office hours sessions so that we could continue to assist her (and learn the intricacies of Windows 8 ourselves), and by the end of the study, she was able to accomplish many of the tasks we taught in the formal class sessions.

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