|This paper describes an on going program initiated by Prof. Edna Aphek and carried out at the Alon School in MateYehuda, in Israel. The program aims at minimizing the intergeneration gap and the digital divide by having elementary school children tutor seniors at computer and internet skills and at the same time write together with the seniors a digital "mini ebook" based on a chapter from the senior's personal history.
|The Rationale of the Program
1.The Hi -Tech information oriented society is a society, which places much emphasis on the new and the changing. In such a world the past looses its importance. The voices of past knowledge and experience become obsolete and the chasm between the generations, the old generation and the young ones, becomes insurmountable.
2.The new technologies have created a new situation, rather unknown in human history. A situation wherein young children master a skill much needed by adults in general and seniors in particular. In the new Hi-Tech world, where children speak the new language of the Information Technologies as their mother tongue, it would be most fitting to put their mastery to good use and train them to teach this new language to Senior Citizens, those unacquainted with the language of the computer and the internet.
3. Knowledge endangered: the dire need for preserving knowledge at risk of disappearance
Precious knowledge is stored in the heads of senior citizens. Many seniors are "walking treasures" of history, of folk art (their art work) and of music about to disappear.
The project aims at combining the vast experience and knowledge of the seniors with the mastery of computer and internet skills of the young ones, thus fostering new social interactions and minimizing the generation and digital divide.
The project started in 1998 at the Alon school, in Mate Yehuda. In this program children ages 9-13 tutor seniors at computer and internet skills, and together, the young teachers and their old learners write an electronic book describing a chapter in the personal history of the senior tutee. Thus, the element of reciprocity, wherein children tutor the seniors at computer and the IT and learn from the seniors about the past, becomes a key element in this project.
The Alon model, developed in light of our work 1998-2001 is a tri-stage model: The preparatory stage, the activity itself and summary- evaluation and assessment.
1. The preparatory stage (pre- teaching)
Training in tutoring skills: breaking down a topic into sub- topics, learning communication skills, acceptance of the other, distancing oneself from prejudice and stereotypes, being patient and tolerant of lack of knowledge and slow pace, criticizing and encouraging a learner.
A preparatory session with the seniors giving them some background about the history of the internet and its components.
2. The activity itself: 10 weeks
Meeting once a week, for 3 consecutive hours.
5 weeks: tutoring the seniors at computer and internet skills.
5 weeks: writing together an E BOOK, a computerized version of a chapter in the personal history of the senior.
This stage includes: searching the internet, encyclopedias, books.
Scanning- pictures, documents, art work etc. all connected to the seniors past history.
Recording: recording what went on in the session by both the "young teacher" and his/her tutee.
Reflecting over the session: each session ends with a discussion with all the participants as to their feelings and suggestions for improving the process.
3. Evaluation and reassessment
On- going evaluation of the program, and reassessment at two major points:
At the end of first 5 weeks and at the end of the entire program.
|The Ebooks: sample material
As previously mentioned, a key issue in the program is the co-writing of a"mini- ebook", based on a chapter in the personal history of the partcipating senior. All the seniors who participated in the project this year wrote "mini ebooks" based on their past history. Most of the seniors chose stories connected to major events in their life. The children were learning history from living resources, and they were taking part in its recording. They were fascinated, captivated by the personal element of the stories and at times excited about their new role as "history writers".
|Excerpts from Two Ebooks
1. A chapter from an ebook written by ZIP 65+ and Y. a boy in 6th grade
Y. who has been working with Z. was stupefied : why didn't they give you a formula and that's it? He asked, why go and look for a nursing woman? Z. gave Y. a lesson in history. She told him about the very many things that abound nowadays, but which didn't exist sixty + years ago.
2. An excerpt from Shaul's digital book
Shaul was born in Argentine in 1930.
Here is the first chapter from his digital ebook written together with A. in 6th grade.
A discussion followed, a lesson in relativity and about what is important. Different points of view at different points in time... different centuries...
|Mid- project : participant's comments
Feb 16th, 2001
In the sixth meeting, about half way through the project this year, we held a special meeting where we recorded learner's and teacher's comments. Though a short recording session was held at the end of every session, we felt that more time should be devoted to this process.
Here are most of the comments and suggestions:
The work of the children with the seniors helps debunk unfounded myth and prejudice. The Israeli society is a very torn society. Its torn between religious and non-religious Jews, Jews and non -Jews, Ashkenazi and Sepharadic Jews, young and old and the very young ones and seniors.
In such a deep situation of rift and alienation, there is a danger that each party will close itself to the other parties, become intolerant and prejudiced of other parties.
Volunteering and giving to other segments in population, helps mending the rift and preventing the growth of prejudices. Getting to know the other through giving and receiving - learning from the Third Agers about their personal history - helped in creating a common denominator and a real dialogue as well as to the debunking of prejudices.
We asked the "young teachers" what they thought about the Third Agers prior to working with them and how their view of the seniors changed in light of their work. Here are some of their comments:
|The Advantages of Learning from Children
We wanted to learn from the seniors whether there was any advantage in learning computer and internet skills from young children, or it was just a nice gimmick. We decided to ask our "old learners" about this.
Q. What's the advantage of having children as tutors?
Here are some of their answers:
|Problems and Difficulties Encountered
Even though on the whole the program was very successful we encountered a few difficulties:
As previously mentioned, we have lengthened the course duration, from 5 meetings to 10. It seems that for some of the young children this was a bit tiring. In the 7th session, two of the "teachers" were absent. One of the learners (A) whose teacher didn't arrive was very upset and expressed her disappointment quite loudly.
These meetings between the very old and the very young brought forth an atmosphere of closeness and familiarity. It so happens that after some time a youngster or two misconstrued this "family atmosphere" and forgot their manners, using too familiar language.
The following is an example of such instance:
A learner finished her first chapter using PowerPoint she said that she would like to start the second chapter, in sort of a "just kidding " mood her "young teacher" said: "I hope you'll do it with someone else".
The "young teachers" had some difficulty explaining and clarifying terms and concepts. Doing rather than speaking and explaining is the youngsters strong point. Another problem related to the one mentioned above, is the pace at which the youngsters taught. Very often they went too fast over the material and had difficultly restraining themselves.
Giving preparatory assignments for the "young teachers" and assignments to practice what was learnt in the session to the old learners.
There was too much satisfaction about the way the course was conducted, that the two teachers, who supervised the entire operation, didn't at times realize the need for the aforementioned assignments.
At the end of the first 5 meetings the two supervising teachers demanded that the participants both children and seniors record their work and impressions on a weekly basis. From the 6th session on, the teachers were less demanding and not all the participants bothered to write a detailed description of the work done and their reflections.
The young teachers had some difficulty fully understanding the reflective process and its importance. Very often they resorted to summarizing what was taught or learnt instead of describing inner processes they underwent.
|Summary and Discussion
The success of this program stems from the following guiding principles:
1. Mindful use of technology
When a new technology becomes prevailing it brings about many changes: changes in ways of thinking, in methods and tools for thinking and in social processes and structures. We often hear that the new Information Technologies are responsible for the digital divide and as such increase the ever- widening gaps in society.
This paper describes the opportunity to minimize the gaps in society by using these very technologies. I maintain that mindful use of the IT, based upon value oriented pedagogic approach focusing upon volunteering, cooperation and the acceptance of the other, will give us the tools to bridge societal gaps, create new caring communities and establish innovative models of closeness as opposed to individualism and alienation.
2. Careful preparation work
From our work 1998-2001, we learnt that there was much need for thorough and careful preparation work, to be done with the "young teachers" prior to the actual teaching itself, during the teaching and an in depth summation session.
3. Reciprocity is a key element
A good program is a program in which people are both giving and receiving. Both parties children and seniors, function both as teachers and as learners. The children tutor the seniors at computer and internet skills and the seniors teach the young ones a lesson in history. The children and the seniors write together a computerized chapter based on the personal history of the senior tutored. Together they surfed the Internet in their quest for information; together they scanned pictures from albums and documents archives, related to the senior's life story.
The seniors don't function only as receivers of technological skills mastered by the young ones, but they are also contributors to the "young teachers" from their vast knowledge and experience.
Reciprocity was and is manifested in many ways in this program.
M. a fifth grade pupil, had the following to say: "I had a lot of emotional difficulties this year. But my "old lady" listened to me and "fixed" my head. Each meeting with her was like walking into a beautiful land"..
When we started out the project in 1998 we thought that the main beneficiaries from the project would be the seniors: they would be tutored at computer and internet skills. For two first years 1998-2000 we limited the scope of the program to teaching by the children of these aforementioned skills. After the first two years we realized how much the children were to gain from this program and we expanded its scope to include a lesson in history and a lesson in reciprocity.
A folk saying maintains, and I am quoting rather freely, that when an old man dies, an entire library is set on fire.
In this program libraries are saved and the young children become the curators of libraries endangered.