About andrewmonk2015

Andrew is a psychologist and author with an interest in the gadgets people use in their everyday lives

Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp video: 3 tips for grandparents

Now we can’t easily visit our families physically we can instead use technology to do virtual visits. Here are three tips for grandparents who might not be fully up to speed with Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp video.

These tips are all about what the person you are talking to will see when you connect with them. When in a conversation you can see what you look like using the small window within your screen. This can be difficult to focus on, ask the person you are talking to describe what they can see.

So what can you do to make conversation more effective?

Tip 1. Avoid bright light behind you.

The camera in your phone, tablet or laptop will adjust according to the amount of light it is receiving. If there is a strong light behind you, perhaps a window or a bright lamp, then the camera will adjust to the light and your face will appear to be in the dark. This can easily be fixed by rearranging where you are sitting to avoid light behind you.

Tip 2. Avoid the up-your-nose shot

Commonly people will place a phone or tablet directly in front of themselves on a lowish surface. This is ideal for viewing the person at the other end of the link but it means the camera is providing a rather unfortunate image, right up your nose! The solution to this problem is to move the device back, preferably on a surface which is not too low, so that you are looking more horizontally at the camera.

This sort of distance works for me.


Tip 3. Use both cameras

Don’t forget that phones and tablets have two cameras. The one that provides the image of your face is a tiny pinhole next to the screen. The other camera is a more obvious lens on the back normally used for taking photos. By switching to this other camera you can show the person at the other end interesting stuff. For example, you might give them a virtual tour of the room that you are in. The button to switch between cameras probably looks a bit like this.


It is possible to do all sorts of creative things when you start moving the phone or tablet about. Also don’t limit yourself to just chatting. What about playing games or reading stories? Have fun. Your children and grandchildren will be impressed.



Free Chapter – Helping someone who has problems with everyday living


Download Chapter 3 “Helping someone who has problems with everyday living” as free PDF(29 pages)

This chapter is about gadgets that make life easier for people who have problems with aspects of everyday living. It is written for people who have ageing parents or friends and relatives who could be helped in this way.

This free PDF may also be useful to for professional carers who would like an introduction to accessibility, telecare and assistive technology that they can give to clients and their relatives.

The chapter is very close to my heart as it is based on my most recent research. For this reason I included it in my book “Explore your iPad – for seniors”, even though it is mainly about technologies that are not iPad oriented!


  • Seeing and hearing
  • How-to-do-it guide – seeing and hearing
  • Forgetfulness
  • Aside – different kinds of human memory
  • How-to-do-it guide – forgetfulness
  • Keeping out of hospital
  • Aside – Is activity monitoring “watching over you” or “spying”?
  • How-to-do-it guide – keeping out of hospital
  • Caring for someone with dementia
  • How-to-do-it guide – caring for someone with dementia
  • Invention needed
  • Related chapters and other material

Download Chapter 3 “Helping someone who has problems with everyday living” as free PDF (29 pages)

Things you can touch on a touchscreen


Glossary of iPad and iPhone touchscreen buttons from “Explore your iPad – for seniors”. Download as free PDF.

This Glossary starts with brief explanations of the various things you may tap/touch while using an app on an iPhone or iPad. I think of these as “touchscreen buttons”. There are also sections on what you can do with: physical buttons, gestures, the touchscreen keyboard, a stylus and speech.

The Glossary comes from my book “Explore your iPad – for seniors” This is a guide for people who want to explore their iPad for themselves rather than follow detailed instructions.

Contents of Glossary (free PDF )

  • Touchscreen buttons, general
  • Touchscreen buttons, specific to media players and recorders (sounds or pictures)
  • Physical buttons
  • Gestures that work like buttons
  • Bringing up and using the touchscreen keyboard
  • Talking to your iPad, Siri
  • Finger not working try a stylus

See also my previous post – A recipe to do anything with a tablet or phone

Explore your iPad – for seniors

bookchptstwtpicDownload as free iBookget_it_on_ibooks_badge_us_1114, get free PDFs or
buy as 180 page paperback from Amazon, Price £6

Fed up with trying to memorise detailed instructions on how to work your iPad? With the guidance of this book you can figure out what to do – for yourself.

The book begins with a one-page “recipe to do anything you want with an iPad”. To use this simple recipe you need to think clearly about what it is that you want to do and then be able to recognise the things you need to touch on the touchscreen. The best way to pick up this generally applicable knowledge is by exploring. This is much more fun than trying to rote learn a set of instructions. Explore your iPad – for seniors will guide you on this journey of exploration.

The Chapter titles are: Enjoying keeping active; Playing games; Helping someone who has problems with everyday living; Keeping in touch with friends and family; Joining an online community, and Getting creative, photos and art.

Apps featured include: Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Words, Fitbit, My Fitness Pal, Accessibility Settings, Mail, Messages, Facetime, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogger, Twitter, Photos, Flikr, Dropbox.

To make this new kind of technology book work for you there are:

  • general purpose How-to-do-it Guides for each topic considered that will not go out of date with new versions of apps for the iPad;
  • a Glossary of Touchscreen Buttons that you may encounter while exploring;
  • an Appendix – Getting apps and connecting to the internet.

The book covers all kinds of iPads including the iPad Air and the iPad mini, iOS 9 and iOS 10.

A recipe to do anything with a tablet or phone



1 tablet such as an iPad, Fire or Galaxy Tab. This recipe also works well with smartphones such as the Lenovo or the iPhone.

1 inquiring mind

1 pair of eyes (with or without glasses)

1 finger


  1. Ask yourself what are you trying to do? How would the people who design apps describe it? What words would they use?
  2. Look for words and touchscreen buttons that could possibly get you nearer to achieving what you want to do. If you can’t see anything you may need to go back to the home screen and open a new app.
  3. Touch a word or touchscreen button.
  4. Ask yourself what again. How has what you just did added to your understanding of what you need to do? If you seem to be making progress, what do you need to do next? If you have clearly touched the wrong thing, how do you get back?
  5. Look again for words and touchscreen buttons that could possibly get you nearer to achieving what you want to do.
  6. Touch again

… and so on until you have done what you set out to do.

By applying this simple recipe you can learn to explore your phone or tablet without the need to memorise long detailed instructions.

If you like this approach and have an iPad get Explore your iPad – for seniors by Andrew Monk to guide you in this journey of exploration. View as a free iBook or buy a printed paperback version from Amazon (£6)  (search the iBooks catalogue or Amazon for “Andrew Monk”)

Print PDF of this page

The Explorer’s Guide to the iPad


The Explorer’s Guide to the iPad – for seniors (Part 1)

This book is no longer available as Kindle eBook. These chapters, with three more new chapters, are now available as a free iBook “Explore your iPad – for seniors”. Please see page  Get “Explore your iPad – for seniors”.

Fed up with trying to memorise detailed instructions on how to work your iPad? Would you rather have a guide that empowers you to discover new things to do – for yourself?

The Explorers’ Guides are a new kind of technology book. Written to be entertaining and informative, each guide is structured around basic human needs.

Part 1 (this Kindle book) is 36,000 words long and contains 56 pictures. It explains how to use your iPad:

  • to make it fun to keep active and healthy (Chapter 1);
  • to play games you will enjoy, on your own, or with friends and family over the internet (Chapter 2);
  • to help someone who has problems with everyday living (Chapter 3).

Part 2, to be published later in 2016 will include chapters on: watching TV on your iPad, keeping in touch with friends and family, and creating photos and art on the iPad.

To make this new kind of technology book work for you there are:

  • general purpose How-to-do-it Guides for each topic considered that will not go out of date with new versions of apps for the iPad;
  • a Glossary of Touchscreen Buttons that you may encounter while exploring;
  • an Appendix – Getting apps and connecting to the internet, and
  • sign-posted explanations of useful jargon but no unnecessary jargon.

Apps featured include: Fitbit, My Fitness Pal, Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Accessibility Settings.


In this blog I use the word “gadgets” as a handy shorthand for certain bits of hardware. The kind of things I am talking about are illustrated in the pictures in the header for this website. In the order they are depicted there, they are:

  • touch screen phones (e.g., the iPhone; the Samsung Galaxy; the Nokia Lumia)
  • tablets (e.g., the Apple iPad, iPad Mini, and iPad Air; the Samsung Galaxy Tab; the Hudl; Google Nexus tablets, the Kindle Fire)
  • games consoles (e.g., the Microsoft Xbox; the Sony Play Station; the Nintendo Wii),
  • miscellaneous small items of equipment (e.g., a fitness bracelet such as the FitBit; the Jawbone UP)
  • laptops
  • smart TVs (e.g., Panasonic Viera)
  • desktop PCs (not pictured)
  • ereaders (e.g., the Kindle; the Kobo, not pictured, look like tablets)

Download free digital legacy form (letter of wishes)

What would you like your relatives to do with your Facebook page when you die? Do you have online banking accounts that the beneficiaries of your will may not find out about?

No one likes to think about dying. At the same time we all know the value of having a will, in order to ensure that our legacy goes to the right people with the minimum fuss and legal costs. Physical assets are easy. You can bequeath objects of financial or sentimental value to your relatives and the executors of your will can easily find those objects in your home. There are probably also physical traces of your bank accounts, printed statements and so on, that provide the account numbers needed to access the money.

Online digital assets are more difficult. Research for Co-operative Funeralcare found that three out of four people surveyed had not made any arrangements for online banking details to be passed on. Almost 80% of those who attempted to manage online bank, utility, shopping and social media accounts following a death said they had experienced problems.

However, it is not all about money. Facebook now has legacy settings that allow a designated “legacy contact” to “memorialize” your account or simply close it if that is your wish. Google has also recently added similar features that allow a “trusted contact” to have access to your account should it become “inactive”.

Read more about this on the BBC News website

The downloadable forms

It is commonplace for solicitors to store a “letter of wishes” along with your will when you deposit it with them. This would normally contain wishes, that are not legally binding, for your funeral service and so on. I recently made a new will and asked my solicitor to store with it a letter of wishes listing my digital assets that I felt were of financial or sentimental value. Furthermore, my solicitors have said they are willing for me to give them updated lists on an annual basis.

You can download the forms I used and modify them for your own use. I have put in some fictional details for an Arthur and Rosemary Munroe as examples of what you might include. If you have suggestions as to how I might modify the forms please leave a comment.

There are actually two forms “Annually updated letter of wishes: financial assets” and “Annually updated letter of wishes: social digital legacy”.

For the financial form I suggest that you do not include passwords on the electronic form in case your computer is hacked. A solicitor armed with your will and a death certificate should be able to access the accounts just using the account number. If you want to record passwords for your beneficiaries the safest thing is to printout the form and write in the relevant details with a pen before you give it to the solicitor.

The Social Digital Legacy form includes a number of items that have little financial or sentimental value at the moment. However, I strongly believe that this will change as new legitimate and fraudulent uses for these social media emerge. Make a list now and update your wishes on an annual basis. Many people store passwords for this sort of thing on their computer in a spreadsheet. This is probably OK, unless you are a celebrity or these passwords give clues about the more important financial passwords. I have simply written in pen on the printout “A written list passwords for these accounts can be found in the study in my…”

DigitalAssetsForm  .docx

DigitalAssetsForm  .pdf


A book for seniors on gadgets

The majority of the books on the gadgets we use in our everyday lives are step-by-step how-to-do-it books focusing on a specific device or product, e.g., iPad for Seniors for Dummies. They look very much like printed manuals for a specific gadget. These books serve a valuable purpose for people starting out with a new gadget but they are not fun to read.

In the post Where Have all the Manuals Gone I suggest a different approach which is to write a book that is more like a travel guide than a manual. A travel guide is to inspire you to explore places of interest in a city. The analogous approach for a book on gadgets for seniors would inspire you to explore some of the fun and useful things you can do with the gadgets you use in your everyday lives.

Such a book needs to focus on:

  • what things you can do with gadgets
  • why you might find these things fun or useful
  • how to get started exploring these uses for everyday gadgets

You will not be surprised to learn that I am in the process of writing such a book! If you think this is the sort of book you would find interesting leave a comment listing the things you would like to see covered in it.

Where have all the instruction manuals gone?

The first version of Microsoft Word that I used came with a 300 page book detailing all the things I could do with it. Similarly, the first mobile phone I bought, an Eriksen PF768 that I still have, came with a 50 page instructions booklet. In comparison, the instructions for an iPad I bought 2 years ago just had a single card with a picture of the gadget on one side. As you can see in this picture, the card just had labels indicating where the on/off, volume and home buttons were. The instruction on the other side of the card simply said “To start, turn your iPad by pressing and holding the On/off button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set up your iPad.”


So why don’t manufacturers provide printed instructions with their gadgets any more? Maybe it is because these gadgets do so much that a printed manual would be massive and costly to produce. It makes much more sense provide “online support” in the form of explanatory web pages and ways of searching for “help”. However, I think that the main reason for not providing a printed manuals is that people simply don’t use them any more.

For most people reading a manual, or for that matter consulting online help, are boring and only to be contemplated if all else fails. I would say that if people regularly need to consult the manual or help pages for a gadget then it’s probably a poorly designed gadget!

A well designed phone app should make it possible to figure out what you do just by tapping around on the touch screen. The designer steers you towards the right guess about what you need to do next and makes sure that if you makes the wrong guess you will know immediately and be able to get back where you were. The same thing applies to websites. A well designed website makes clear on the home page all the things that you can do with it and then leaves you to discover how to do them by “clicking around”. In the world of research that I am involved in, this is called learning by exploration. Learning to use a well designed gadget by exploration can be fun. Think of it as a puzzle rather than a lecture.

What then can printed information do for gadget owners, particularly seniors? The problem is that as gadgets get more and more sophisticated one can get left behind. Learning by exploration is good if you know roughly what you are trying to do and why. If you have never tried a video call using Skype or Facetime it might be difficult to imagine why this would be of value, or to understand the need to register and send invitations to potential contacts. To take an analogy, imagine I wanted to find out about museums I could visit while in London. What I want from a travel guide is information about what museums there are why I should want to visit a particular one and then some basic information on how to get to it. Unless I am a complete stranger to the country, I don’t want detailed step-by-step manual, how to call a cab, how to get into the building and so on.

There is some evidence that manufacturers are beginning to understand this problem. I recently bought an iPhone 4s. It came with a single folded sheet with an unprecedented 13 pictures of iPhone screens (not 1, 13!), each with a few words of introduction, very much in the style of a travel guide.

The book I am writing assumes the reader wants to learn by exploration but needs a guide to what is possible and why it might have value for them. The What, Why and How Guides in this blog give an idea of what this might look like.

Printed manuals are dead, long live the guide!

For an alternative take on this topic see http://bit.ly/1LhEf6n