September 7, 2010

4-H Teen Council Pilots Intergenerational Technology Class

9/7/10 |
Andrew Yuan, 4-H Youth Mentor, Pinellas County Extension

The Pinellas County 4-H Teen Council has just finished its first iteration of a highly successful Intergenerational Technology Class. In this increasingly technology-oriented world, the gap between generations has been exponentially widening due to rapid advancement in new technologies. The purpose of the Intergenerational Technology Class was to bridge this gap by having young people give some of their knowledge to an older generation of adults.

The Teen Council hatched the idea many months ago along with Dr. Larry Forthun, a University of Florida professor and expert in Intergenerational Approaches to Healthy Families and Communities, and former 4-H Agent Janet Golden. Through meetings and conference calls with Dr. Forthun, the group developed the details and goals of the program. The Teen Council developed the curriculum over the months in the form of two PowerPoint presentations and handouts for the senior citizens. The Teen Council used valuable resources such as a glossary of internet and computer terms for older adults developed by the National Institute on Aging. 4-H curricula such as project books Newbie Know-How and Teens Teaching Tech provided information and inspired ideas for the class.

On June 14, 2010, Dr. Forthun came down from the University of Florida to train the youth instructors on different learning styles associated with the generations. Based on our projected age group, Dr. Forthun gave tips such as presenting the “big picture” first with quick overviews of the days’ lessons or using real world examples by comparing things on a computer to things in an office.

The Teen Council held its first session of the two-part class on June 28th and June 30th in the computer lab of Seminole Library. For the first session, seven ladies from the local Freedom Square Community center came to learn. In addition to Teen Council Co-Presidents Melissa Sharp and Andrew Yuan, four youth volunteers helped to facilitate the program. Extension staff member James Stevenson accompanied the youth. With a focus on basic computer skills such as navigation, keyboard, and mouse functions for Part I, and a focus on internet and email for Part II, the senior citizens gained a total of 3 hours of instruction.

The Council held its second session of the class on July 12th and July 14th, this time accompanied by Extension staff member Vestina Crayton. This time there were five new students (again all female) and two returning see if they could learn even more. The class ran smoothly once again, despite the absence of the majority of the youth volunteers who were at 4-H Camp.

The class was very well-received. The seniors were very receptive and quick learners. They were also very determined learners with an average age of about 83 years old. The youth also enjoyed the class since they had the chance to work with an interesting and friendly bunch of senior citizens. One woman appreciated the class so much she offered to give a $200.00 donation to 4-H towards the purchase of a portable sound system. The sound system could be used for programs such as this one where the students were hard of hearing or to address larger groups.

Based on evaluation sheets that asked the seniors to rate components of the class and give input for future classes, there was positive feedback all around. Comments praised the patience and knowledge of the youth instructors. Ten out of the fouteen evaluations showed the seniors were more comfortable using computers, thirteen out of the fourteen stated they would use the skills they had learned, and thirteen out of the fourteen would recommend the class to others. Ultimately everyone benefited as the youth gained teaching and leadership skills while the senior citizens gained useful computer skills. Both groups gained an appreciation of another generation. The most popular question of the day in both classes was, “When is your next class?”

While many youth spent the summer on the beach or at the mall, the 4-H Teen Council illustrated perfectly how 4-H “Makes the Best Better”.

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