When you belong to a generation that grew up with the typewriter and Tippex for correcting your mistakes, it is easy to appreciate that with the advancement of technology, some of us can get left behind and feel out of touch.
This is a worry for many people over a certain age. Today’s students have grown up in a world of computers, apps, blogs, vlogs, Facebook and Twitter.
Before Facebook came along, we had never talked about posting something on a wall or appreciated a funny video that had been added to a timeline! Is it any wonder that some of the older generation are baffled by language and technology that others take for granted?
Four years ago, Dave Lloyd, Service Development Manager at Coventry’s Central Library thought there was a need to provide learning sessions in the use of IT to those who would most benefit and it was with this in mind that Coventry University and the City’s Library service started to work together on a project called ‘Gen2Gen’ where people from different generations came together to help each other.
The student volunteers could share their IT skills and pass them on to people who were willing to learn them. It could be anything from setting up an email account to learning how to use search engines on the internet.
It is so easy to get intimidated by technology and so getting students to share their knowledge and skills with older people, ‘silver surfing’ can be fun as well as informative. For the older person, there is now a new kind of knowledge which before seemed out of their reach and is opening a range of opportunities.
Fran Docherty, Community Volunteer Coordinator with the Coventry University Students’ Union has been impressed by the Gen2Gen project, and especially with the feedback from those who received the training:
“We have been really pleased with the response to our project and the way learning new technology has been embraced by the older person. Using the local libraries seemed the most logical place for the training as it is a wonderful community resource and a place which would be familiar to them.”
In total, Fran has trained about 80 volunteers this academic year to support the community in local libraries and sees this as a project that can keep on growing.
The student volunteers get much-needed experience in community-based work which will stand them in good stead after graduation and the people receiving the training will no longer feel that modern life is passing them by.
It was the reaction from those receiving the training that has enabled this project to continue, as the comments prove, it is never too late to learn:
“We approached Gen2Gen as we didn’t feel we could learn through books and other resources but instead we preferred the idea of one to one tuition.”
“We will apply our new found skills and training to every tasks which involve using a computer or tablet.”
“I didn’t find a specific part more enjoyable than the other lessons, I enjoyed it all!”
“We have thoroughly enjoyed the course and having the student as our tutor. We appreciated the patience of the student teaching us new things and also enjoyed the fact that they had a good sense of humour and were able to make the sessions fund and interesting.
Some of the comments received from participants in the Gen2Gen project
Jack Whitehouse, a second year engineering and computing student was one of the trainers to volunteer to teach IT. He said:
“I am doing an IT course at university, so have a good range of skills and decided that I could use these to help the senior citizens.
“I believe that there is a purpose to carrying out this type of volunteering as older people struggle to keep up with the constant technological advancements. This project has allowed us to bridge this gap in the local community and give senior citizens the important IT skills they need to help improve their daily lives.
“Overall, I think I have developed a greater awareness for the older generation and the ability to interact with them, both on a working level and on a personal level. I have recognised the importance of giving something back through volunteering and also learned how to be more flexible with teaching styles and how to alter my approach to suit different types of learners.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the Gen2Gen project and would certainly do it again and would recommend it to my friends as it was a fun project to be part of.”
The training has been so successful, that there are now plans to try it in other libraries in Coventry.
Sukhy Heir, Senior Community Librarian and Library Manager said: “We are going to be extending the service to Stoke and Earlsdon libraries as it has proved such a success in the central library.
“The feedback we have had from those taking part, from both learners and teachers, has been excellent and we have built up a wonderful partnership with the University and its students.
“Libraries are a vital resource for community events, as these sessions have proved, and we hope to keep providing them while there is still the need to do so.”
For more information, please visit CUSU Volunteers, Click Here
Written by Ali Bushnell
Edited by Esmé Spurling