July 6, 2010

4-H Intergenerational Technology Project

7/5/10 |
By Melissa Sharp, 4-H Youth Mentor, Pinellas County Extension

Through a fun and informative community service project, 4-H youth learned how to bridge the age gap between generations and teach senior citizens how to use a computer. Because of an educational training with Dr. Larry Forthun, a professor at the University of Florida and expert in intergenerational sciences, our youth learned that every generation is unique in its historical impacts and differences in learning styles and way of life. Each generation even has its own special name. They are: 
  • the Silent Era (born 1925-1942)
  • the Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960)
  • Generation X (born 1961-1981)
  • the Millenials (born 1982-2002).  
By learning about each generation and their differences, the 4-H youth could better prepare themselves to teach each the group of senior citizens.

The Silent Era (1925-1942) was very much influenced by the Great Depression, WWII, Korean Conflict, Cold War, atomic bomb, racism, McCarthyism, the growth of suburbs, vaccines and the invention of television. Their learning style is very different than the Millenials, as the Silent Era learners expect instructions to be given in very structured lectures while they do the practical application at home. They prefer facts to be presented in a logical order and prefer formality over familiarity. They like to see the “Big Picture” first.

The Baby Boomers (1943-1960) grew up in the era of the creation of Rock n’ Roll, the Vietnam Conflict, the civil rights and feminist movements, the first man to walk on the moon, and the Watergate scandal. They like to be creative and independent in their learning styles and expect opportunities to discuss and share knowledge. They enjoy team and group activities, but don’t work well authority and don’t enjoy role play.

The defining events and characteristics of Generation X (1961-1981) are a steep rise in divorce and single parenthood, more moms at work leading to “latch-key” children, the creation of MTV and rap music, the “Just Say No!” campaign, Reaganomics, cable television, personal computers, and the Gulf War. During the learning process Generation X participants need to know what the expectations are and the relevance of everything learned. They are impatient and become frustrated with busy work. They are visual learners, intolerant of instructors who can’t use technology, and need to see how learning will help to get them ahead.

Finally, the Millenials (1980-2002) saw the Monica Lewinski scandal, the school system enacting the Zero Tolerance initiative, standards-based testing and was terrorized by the massacre of Columbine. They also grew up with the consequences of the attack of September 11th and the Iraq/ Afghanistan War. They are living through the recession and realizing the historic significance of the nation’s first black president.

With this information in hand, the 4-H youth got their chance to put their knowledge to the test in their first Intergenerational Technology Class. Senior citizens learned the basics of a computer, how to use a keyboard and mouse, explored the desktop and many other useful tools. Everyone worked well together and was excited for the second part of the class.

Part II of the class dealt more with internet usage and safety, with the goal to help the senior citizens to communicate with family and friends easily and safely. Instructors and students surfed the web together to find information, explained and used internet browsers, and then took an in-depth look at how to use email. Seniors had the chance to send their first email message to themselves or family members.

The class was a success; the youth volunteers received first hand experience on how to work with a senior citizen, and accomplished the hard task of explaining something that they might find easy in creative ways so that the seniors could understand. The senior citizens were also very responsive and quick learners. They seemed to enjoy working with the 4-H’ers in a pursuit to better their computer knowledge. After these greatly successful classes the youth will still hold another session with two more classes: Part I on July 12th and Part II on July 14th.

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