October 24, 2014

Teen teaches tech tips to Williston’s less tech savvy

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January 3rd, 2014

Eighth-grade student Nathan Van Buren is helping Williston residents answer their technology questions twice a month at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

Eighth-grade student Nathan Van Buren is helping Williston residents answer their technology questions twice a month at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Keeping up with ever-changing advancements in technology—smartphone upgrades, new social media sites, new programs—can be hard enough for those who spend every day plugged in.

But for those who didn’t grow up with their fingertips on a keyboard, it can be especially difficult to make sense of it.

Luckily for Williston’s less tech savvy residents, 13-year-old computer whiz Nathan Van Buren is offering to share his expertise two days a month at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library.

“I was basically computer illiterate,” said Moya Muller, who has been regularly meeting with Nathan. “I’ve got a new computer which technically of course is far superior to my ability. It’s a bit like giving somebody who can’t drive a Ferrari.”

Muller said Nathan has been teaching her how to use her computer “in baby steps from the beginning.”

“In this day and age, you have to be able to use a computer and use it effectively,” she said. “With Nathan’s help, I’ve become more and more relaxed.”

Nathan began offering his technology help shortly after the start of the school year, and he’s had no shortage of takers.

“It’s been really busy,” he said. “Some days I’ll be completely booked.”

Although the library program is geared toward everyone, Nathan said he mainly sees seniors.

“It’s a good feeling, being able to help somebody, even if it’s just a tech question,” he said.

A lot of the people he helps have questions regarding email, the Apple store or something that just won’t work right, though Nathan says he rarely hears the same question twice.

“I really enjoy this, and I’ve learned some people skills,” he said.

The process has helped him become a better teacher, he said. For example, he has learned to slow down and lead people through a technology solution themselves, rather than fixing their problem with a quick clacking of keys.

Muller said Nathan is an excellent teacher.

“Firstly, I have found him as a person to be absolutely delightful. Secondly, he knows what he’s talking about and thirdly, he’s a very patient teacher,” she said. “He’s a charming young man, he really is.”

Library Director Marti Fiske said Nathan is filling a definite need for library patrons.

“It’s a need, especially now  that things like e-books are gaining popularity,” she said. “He was so popular within the first month that we started instituting a program of having people sign up if they wanted to guarantee a time.”

Nathan said keeping up with technology advancements is a constant pursuit.

“It changes so fast, and it’s such a big part of our lives,” he said.

Technology will likely factor into his future career, he said, as he’s already looking to go to college for something math- and science-related, such as engineering.

“I really like computers and programming,” he said. “Right now I’m learning to write code.”

Nathan’s next tech tutoring session is set for Jan. 9 from 3 – 6 p.m.

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