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Sharing tech tips between generations

University students help Highland Springs residents navigate tablets and smartphones

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July 5th, 2016
Highland Springs resident Sharron Miller (left) gets help with her iPad from UTD student Mahalakshmi “Maha” Balakrishnan.

Highland Springs resident Sharron Miller (left) gets help with her iPad from UTD student Mahalakshmi “Maha” Balakrishnan.

quick glance at Sharron Miller as she walks down the hallway at Highland Springs leaves the impression that she knows a thing or two about technology.

Sporting a Fitbit on her left wrist and carrying an iPad, Sharron explains how she uses these tools each day.

“I mentioned to my daughter that I was interested in trying a Fitbit, and she let me borrow hers,” says Sharron, who moved to Highland Springs four months ago from Heritage Ranch. “Now I keep track of how many steps I take each day. It’s good motivation to keep moving.”

Her iPad—the second one Sharron has owned—comes in handy for email, social media, and games.

“I still pay bills online using my computer, but I use the iPad for just about everything else,” says Sharron.

As tech savvy as she is, Sharron still runs into stumbling blocks from time to time.

“I clicked something on my Facebook account, and now it’s not letting me download messages or pictures,” she says. 

To remedy the situation, Sharron is heading to the community room at Highland Springs for a technology workshop with students from the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD).

Highland Springs and UTD enjoy a strong relationship through the university’s Good Neighbor program. The two campuses are located in close proximity to each other.

Technology troubleshooting

“A recent initiative of our Good Neighbor program is the one-on-one technology workshop,” says Pagett Gosslee, director of development and alumni relations at UTD. “We bring eight to ten students to Highland Springs once a quarter. Residents bring any questions they have about their handheld devices, like an iPhone or iPad. Our students work with each resident individually to answer their questions.”

Sharron partnered with Mahalakshmi “Maha” Balakrishnan, a graduate student in business analytics. A few minutes later, Sharron’s Facebook account was back up and running.

“I’d accidentally changed my privacy settings,” says Sharron. “Maha helped me fix the problem.”

With Sharron on her way, Maha sat down with Nancy Watson, who had just returned from a trip to visit her daughter’s family in Boston. 

“My daughter downloaded an app on my phone called Red Laser,” says Nancy. “It’s supposed to let me scan bar codes so I can compare prices, but I can’t get it to work.”

To demonstrate the app’s usage, Maha pulled a few cards from her wallet with barcodes on them. She walked Nancy through the steps of using the app.

“This workshop couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Nancy. “It’s so nice of these students to help us when we have a question or a problem.”

The feeling is mutual

Based on their feedback, the students enjoy the experience just as much.

“We ask the students to reflect after every workshop, and their experience at Highland Springs is overwhelmingly positive,” says Tiffany Peart, program coordinator with UTD’s Office of Student Volunteerism. “We have a large international population at UTD, so many of them are away from home. They say the residents remind them of their grandparents.”

Ahead of each technology workshop, Peart posts the volunteer opportunity online for interested students to sign up.

“This workshop at Highland Springs typically fills up within 24 hours,” she says.

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