Computer Classes at Knollwood

by Anna Ferraro 

Monday, January 22nd dawned clear, warm, and bright – just in time for Knollwood Retirement Home to kick off their new computer class, a class sponsored by none other than Illinois Representative CD Davidsmeyer.

“They contacted me about this back in November, 2017,” said Davidsmeyer. And he was all in. While looking on the classroom scene, Davidsmeyer shared, “I remember when computers came around. I pushed them off as long as I could, and now, they are the way of the future. … I feel that any opportunity to provide people with a chance to learn and gain more information is an excellent opportunity.” When asked about his interest in helping with this particular activity, he responded, “Politicians spend a lot of raising money. But what most people don’t realize is that a lot of the money I raise I put right back into the communities that I represent.” He concluded, “I believe that when you represent a district, it’s important to be involved in all of the communities that make up that district.” For that reason, Davidsmeyer stepped up and covered the tuition fee for each student enrolling in the class. Also for that reason, when the class kicked off, Davidsmeyer was there.

Sharon Clayton, the Marketing Director at Knollwood shared, “Davidsmeyer didn’t even hesitate to support our efforts on this – we’re so grateful for his sponsorship of this activity – and our residents are just so excited about this.”

They certainly were, as one could feel the excited hum of the room as around 20 senior citizens hooked mouses up to laptops and listened to the instructor give a short introduction to the course. Carol Sipes, a retired high school instructor from the Winchester schools that is still passionate about being in the classroom setting, stepped up to the plate to present the computer course. Working through Lincoln Land Community College out of Springfield, who donated the equipment for the class, Sipes volunteered her time to invest in the residents at Knollwood, saying, “This isn’t about me, this is about my students.”

Giving an hour of her time to work with the group each week, Sipes hopes to drop in at Knollwood throughout the week and check in on the students individually, leaving a computer or two set up for them to be able to practice outside of the classroom time.

When the course was announced, there was a fantastic response from the residents, producing around 20 participants in the class, ranging through all ages of their residency. One resident enthusiastically shared, “I’m excited to learn how to communicate with other people on the computer. Years and years ago, I used to play Solitaire, and do some computer golfing. Now I want to use it as a tool for communication.”

Another resident said, “Honestly, I’d much rather handle my hardback books and magazines than be on a computer, but this is a chance for me to learn a new skill, and one that I can use to keep in touch with my family. So I’m excited for this opportunity to grow and learn. Besides that, this has gotta be good for my brain.” And with that, she was there too, with her friends, handling a laptop and mouse while Sipes explained what icons were.

At the start of class, Sipes walked her students through the process of shutting down and restarting their computers. When several students ran into bits of trouble locating icons and finding where to click with their mouse, Davidsmeyer acted as classroom aide, assisting the residents in getting things going, to the delight and surprise of the Knollwood staff. When one resident complained, “My mouse won’t wake up,” another resident quipped back, “then give it some cheese!”

Planning to offer the classes for one hour each week, for three weeks, Sipes hopes to give her group of senior students a basic working knowledge of computers through what will feel like a “Computers 101” course. By the end of the course, the Knollwood residents should be able to navigate the internet, send emails, and use Word documents to write letters to friends and loved ones.

For the first day, the group did well, and they finished excited about what learning and growth the next few weeks would offer. Clayton concluded, “Knollwood’s community of residents is really a lot of people that want to learn and grow. They participate in all of our activities – games, outings, choir, chapel services for many denominations, and more. I love this group of people – I feel like we have the best residents in the world.”

And now, thanks to Sipes, Clayton, and Davidsmeyer, the residents of Knollwood aren’t just well traveled and well read, they’re also on their way to becoming computer savvy!

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