One is never too old or too young to learn. That is the message behind Euper Lane Elementary School’s Tech 4 Seniors Project designed to promote interaction and learning between sixth-grade students and area senior adults. The students spend time each month teaching seniors about technology and how to utilize modern programs and software. In turn, the students walk away with valuable insight into the past from interviews with their partners about growing up in America in earlier decades.
Tech 4 Seniors is the brainchild of teacher Kim Pankey. The idea came after she attended the funeral of a dear family friend who passed away at the age of 98. While traveling with her brother and sister, the two discussed how the lady had served as a mentor to each of them and how she had made an incredible impact on all of their lives.
“I realized that many of my students would never have the opportunity to share with a senior adult like we had,” said Pankey. From that discussion, she began to think about ways in which her class could interact more with senior adults. “This is such a disconnect between what the students in our classrooms use on a daily basis to enhance their learning compared to how seniors were taught in the classroom when they were young. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to have my students teach seniors about computers?”
Pankey partnered with her colleague, Shannon Carter, to develop the project. Pankey and Carter each received 1:1 Technology Grants from Fort Smith Public Schools’ which provided a classroom set of mini-laptops to incorporate technology into their curriculum. They discussed ways in which the students could teach seniors how to navigate searches, use Google tools, blog, and how to use other common web applications. They also discussed the importance of teaching the adults internet safety tips. With their plan in place, they contacted senior groups at their churches and encouraged students to check with family members who might be in interested in participating.
Once they established the core technology subjects and recruited participants, Carter and Pankey decided that the students could in turn benefit from the seniors by learning about the decades in which the adults lived. “We decided to connect the information that the students learn about their senior partner through interviews and independent research on the decades of the seniors lives,” said Pankey. “They research a decade at a time and connect the information to the knowledge they gain from visiting with their adult.” Carter added, “The seniors will be a primary source for the students as they share their personal experiences and recall memories from their pasts.”
The two groups meet once a month for two hours at a time. The first meeting took place in late November and proved to be a great success. Each senior received a folder in which to keep notes and computer information gathered at each visit. To date, about 20 seniors are participating. There are seven lessons scheduled in the series. At their latest meeting, students demonstrated the use of function keys and taught the seniors how make gifts for their families for the holidays on the web application, Tagxedo.
At the end of the year, students will take the information they compile from their interviews and write a biography or a historical fiction piece with and about their senior partner using Tikatok. The Tikatok application will enable the seniors to view their books online and to purchase a copy for themselves.
“We hope that after our pilot year, this program will expand so that each student can work with a senior adult from the Fort Smith community,” noted Pankey. “We would like to see students eventually Skype with grandparents or relatives from around the country. The possibilities are endless.”