In 2010, Lyceum # 130 of Novosibirsk began to enroll the local pensioners for the free courses on ICT within the project “Understandable Internet” originated by Google several years ago.

Every week a group of people over the age of 55, with the oldest participants well over 70, come to the ICT school class. The lessons are conducted by an IT teacher, with the help of several volunteers from senior classes. Teenagers are organized on a rotating basis, so that at every lesson, there are two or three young assistants who spend those 40 minutes running around in response to a raised hand which signifies that someone needs help. The questions sound familiar. What shall one do if they forgot how to fill in a questionnaire? Where has everything disappeared (when they clicked the wrong button)? How to cope with the keyboard? Once all the lines are filled in, the form should be sent… what does it mean?
One lesson is usually allotted to one task. Children patiently repeat the same explanations over and over again, and the old students equally patiently fulfill the tasks. For several years, I have been teaching very old users myself, and I compiled a short “to-do” list according to their wishes. Why does an 82-year-old grandfather want to learn how to use the internet, and what exactly does he need?
*Communication. They want to learn how to use email and maybe even skype. They wish to register at a social site and look for their own former classmates, or for people of their own generation.
* Information. They wish to know how to use a search engine and what to type to define their interest.
* They want to be able to talk to their grandchildren about the things that are part and parcel of any teen’s life.
Watching the current group work, I could easily see that communication is indeed their number one interest and aim. Siberian winter lasts almost the whole school year; it is not very easy to make one get out at times. A weekly meeting disciplines and stimulates one, plus it is something to look forward to. Grandparents get dressed up, pay extra attention to their hairdos, put together notebooks, pens and several pairs of eye glasses. As any class, they spend some time getting acquainted, and getting used to their teachers. They come to class early to exchange greetings and news, and they are in no hurry to leave afterwards. This little weekly outing plays a large role in their socializing.
What does it give teenagers? Senior pupils feel that they can teach older people something useful, they can see the happy smiles when a task is done well. One of the women asks if it is possible to arrange a few individual sessions during the vacations, so that a pupil can help a grandmother finally conquer several difficulties she encounters in trying to use a social site. This should be discussed with the parents and the homeroom teacher. I know that in the previous years, such sessions were organized, with mutual benefits and great success. As a senior pupil put it, when one comes to visit a grandma, even if she is somebody else’s granny, there are always pies and tea to be had, as well as good heart-to-heart talks. Communication is indeed the key to success! I took a number of photos, as a memory of this wonderful session.

Nina MK, Ph.D.

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