They file into the small classroom, fiddling with their pens and pads of paper, and clutching their shiny new handheld devices. Some appear eager, others wary and somewhat perplexed. However, these aren’t your average classroom students. Most are adults with jobs, mortgages and children. A good many are gray-haired.
Welcome to smart phone school. Across America and via various cell phone companies and cellular service providers, classes are popping up to teach the less tech-savvy consumers just how to get the most out of their new smart phones. And there seems to be no shortage of students.
A recent Internet search found classes offered in Illinois, Oregon and Santiago Canyon College in Orange, Calif. In DeKalb County, one can find classes all over. For example, T-Mobile offers free smart phone classes on the first and last Sunday of every month at its Decatur Square location. Verizon has classes ongoing at several locations, including in Tucker and Lithonia as well as online.
Just how popular are the classes?
According to Nichole Dennis, manager of the T-Mobile store on the Decatur Square, there’s enough interest that additional classes are scheduled to accommodate the overflow. Classes are purposely kept small—five to six students—so individuals can get more personal attention, get questions answered and content can be covered without going too long.
Dennis said T-Mobile began offering the classes in 2011 and unlike those of some other carriers T-Mobile classes are open to anyone regardless of which carrier they’re with or where they purchased their phones.
Dennis said their classes attract individuals from a wide range of ages, experience level and tech know-how.
“We’ve actually gotten customers who’ve had their smart phones for awhile but had not learned their phone. They didn’t know how to do the extras,” said Dennis.
She recalled that in their first class, the participants spoke several different languages, which she said she originally thought was going to be a problem but wasn’t. Everyone ended up talking with each other.
“It was a great experience,” she said.
I took in a class at a Verizon store in Columbia, Md., at the end of March after getting a new phone. I was determined this time not to have a phone with features I didn’t know how to use. When I mentioned the class to my 19-year-old daughter, she laughed—long and hard.
While I wondered if I would be the only one there, gee was I wrong. The room was filled to capacity with people mostly in their 40s through 60s. Our instructor was a young woman who appeared to be in her 20s.
The free hour-long class offered tips on customizing the device, accessing email and voicemail, downloading and using apps. Other functions we didn’t get to were covered in several hand-outs that were provided.
With phone in hand, the instructor attempted to move quickly through demos using a phone connected to a large video monitor so everyone could see what she was doing. She was interrupted repeatedly as her pupils with their less nimble hands and most wearing glasses struggled to keep pace.
And when the hour was up, many agreed it wasn’t nearly long enough and several joked that they needed some one-on-one tutoring. The young woman freely handed out her business cards, encouraging participants to call anytime and to kindly leave the room quickly so the next class could come in.