YEAR 3 of The Digital Age Project – Generations Go!November 2016-2017

The Digital Age Project is an initiative aimed at promoting social and digital inclusion for older people using an intergenerational approach involving young people. Through working together this will improve older learner’s digital literacy and combat social isolation by connecting them to the wider community. The younger participants have the opportunity to gain valuable skills, share life experiences with another generation and play a role within their local community. We also aim to challenge ageism and help build an age-friendly society.

During it’s third year of delivery the project has now set up and delivered 4 x 11 week intergenerational IT courses. The remaining 4 projects will commence in early September 2017.

This year we have been basing the project in post primary schools. We have linked up 10 older learners from the community with 10 teenage pupils (aged 14+) to work on an informal one to one basis learning how to get online and seeing how it can be applied to their lives. The pupils take on the role of ‘digital mentors’ using a hard copy of an online toolkit resource specially created by the Digital Age Project (available for free to download and use by any individual or organisation at www.digital-age.org.uk).

Learning how to do this can help people to live more independently, feel less isolated and more connected to the wider world, contributing to their overall well- being. Learners are encouraged to bring along their own technology – smart phone/tablet/ipad, if they have one, to become more familiar and confident in using it. Some of the projects have taken place during the school day and others after-school in the students own time and this has been much appreciated.

The sessions prove to be of mutual benefit for each age group. The older learners get individual tuition in what they are interested in, learn at their own pace and receive a hard copy of the Digital Age Project IT toolkit to keep and refer back to. They have found that working on a one to one basis is a great way to learn and become confident about going online whilst enjoying the informality of the sessions and the patience of the tutors. The pupils have been enjoying the satisfaction of teaching and helping others gain confidence in using technology and it has benefited some who have been involved in volunteering through the Princes Trust, Duke of Edinburgh and Pope John Paul Awards, Business and IT and Health & Social Care students. They have reported an increase in their own confidence and enjoying being able to communicate more effectively with, and finding a new found respect for, the older generation. Both age groups have discovered they have much in common with each other and have enjoyed the camaraderie and banter during the sessions.

Participants of all ages have reported positive outcomes in relation to challenging their pre-conceptions around age and generational difference, thus contributing to closer bonds and mutual respect between the generations in the local community.

The older participants have learned to email, skype, shop online to save money, book holidays, take edit and upload photos, social media, family history, youTube and Pinterest, research, access information and services, how to use QR codes, enjoy Spotify, to name but a few.

At the final celebration session of each project, it was great to see the positive friendships that had been formed over the 11 weeks of spending time together and supporting each others’ learning. Groups have been encouraged to develop their links through refresher IT courses and explore the joint interests they had discovered about each other such as cookery & local history. One group even took part in ‘the Big Lunch’ together.

All participants received a hard copy of the Digital Age Project IT toolkit of their own to refer back to as a teaching/learning resource. We have encouraged schools to use this to replicate the project themselves in the future, as the pupils now have experience in tutoring – perhaps with a different group of older learners or grandparents coming in to be taught.

We were also pleased to welcome BBC Radio Ulster who came out to interview the learners and their tutors in our Holy Cross College & Strabane Community Network project for their radio programme ‘Times of our lives.’

Explore below for more information on the different elements of project development this year….

What were the experiences of those who took part?

Older Learners…
• I now know where everything is on my tablet and am confident about using it.
• Meeting the young people and being helped allowed me to find out how the young people think.
• I have definitely learned a lot about their interests, needs and concerns.
• I knew nothing about technology before this project but learning one to one was a great approach – I did not feel silly asking my tutor lots of questions.
• I definitely now feel less isolated.

Young people (tutors/mentors) ……
• I feel the older generation is often underestimated – they really are great craic!
• It’s a good feeling – helping others and teaching them the correct techniques to stay safe online.
• It was great getting to help people that appreciate your help and seeing how easy it is to make someone happy.
• Best bit was exchanging stories and sharing my IT knowledge.
• I enjoyed spending time and getting to know someone who has seen different things in life and had different experiences to me.
• My confidence has really improved – they listened to what I was saying.
• Taking part has made me interested in a career of either teaching or working with older members of the community.
• I have gained patience and an increased understanding and respect of the elderly and am more confident n talking to them now.
• Taking part in this project has really helped me, as a tutor, come out of my shell and become more confident.

teaching staff……
• It was lovely to see a real soft side of the students working so well with the older learners
• It was evident they got a lot of satisfaction from communicating with an older generation and teaching them about technology.
• Our boys loved the project – many parents received texts from me congratulating them on their participation and teaching.
• The IT toolkits were used thoroughly and were good to have.
• It was good to see older people in a learning environment.
• Great project – should happen more often in schools.

One off Digital Inclusion Sessions

The idea is to link up care homes/charities/ summer schemes/youth groups/ workplaces and deliver one off sessions with a view to participants enjoying and benefiting from the engagement and making plans to work together to develop longer sessions of IT and other activities.

We took part in Go ON NI ‘Let’s Get Digital’ event in Donaghadee. As part of a drop-in session, we organised younger members of the community to help local residents with taking, editing and uploading photos to social media.
In Castle Lodge Care Home, Antrim, we linked up teenagers from the local Rathenraw Youth Group to come in and enjoy a fun afternoon of getting to know each other and playing online games such as skittles, air hockey, catchphrase, jigsaws and photo filter. Young people were very keen to get involved and help the residents use the tablet computers to get online. This led onto reminiscing and sharing of life stories and events whilst watching youtube clips of old movies, songs, ballroom dancing and animals. The sights and sounds provided a great stimulus for evoking residents memories and eagerly sharing stories of their past that the teenagers found fascinating. Ages ranged from 13 to 103! The room was buzzing and full of genuine warmth, interest and laughter and plans are in place for future get togethers.

Workshops

We have also been providing free, informal workshops on using digital technology and our IT toolkit to bring generations together in local communities. These sessions have provided opportunities to share practical ideas and knowledge from our past experiences of setting up and delivering the intergenerational IT projects
Workshops have been held in libraries in each of the 11 council areas in N.I. and attended by a wide variety of representatives from statutory and voluntary organisations, schools, care homes, sheltered housing, community groups, health & council staff. These have been delivered in Holywood, Newry, Lisburn, Derry/Londonderry, Antrim, Dungiven, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Banbridge Library, Ballymena Library and Holywood Arches Library, Belfast.

Our final conference to celebrate the final year of the project was held in lLisburn in October 2017, attended by partners and participants of the projects.

Please also check out The Digital Age Project facebook page for photos, comments and more…..

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