Intergenerational Learning at Dublin City University: Introduction to Computers Module

Trudy Corrigan, Carmel Conroy, Marian Flanagan, Joan Flood, Cathy Fowley, Joan McGrane, Gerry McNamara, Conor Sullivan

Dublin City University  

The DCU Intergenerational Learning Project (ILP) is a pilot study currently being run (2008-2010) at Dublin City University as part of a doctoral study in the School of Education Studies. The aim of this pilot study is to highlight the importance of the introduction and development of intergenerational programmes at third level. Of the modules being offered through the project, there has been a huge positive response to the Introduction to Computers module, which aims to enable the older learners to become actively involved in the knowledge society. There are three levels of IT skills offered: beginners, intermediate and advanced. The beginner module introduces the computer to older learners, including how to turn it on, how it works, computer software, using a mouse, using a keyboard, and opening and saving files; the intermediate module builds on skills previously acquired during the beginner module or from previous experience of using a computer at home or at work. This module introduces topics dealing with photography, music, videos, the Internet and online related activities; the advanced module builds on topics from the intermediate module and accommodates the older learners with more advanced IT skills. There are over 100 older learners and 100 DCU student volunteers participating in the project, which meets on Saturday mornings in DCU. Student volunteers act as one-to-one mentors with the older learners.
In this paper we report on the research findings to date. We discuss references to technology and lifelong learning, transfer of knowledge skills, raising the profile/role of older people in society, and developing older learners’ confidence in using technology and in enabling them to participate (many of them for the first time) in learning opportunities on a third level campus. The unique advantage of sharing IT skills is the capacity to exchange knowledge in both an upstream and downstream mode. Older people have the opportunity to exchange their knowledge in a downstream mode to the younger generation; conversely younger students have the opportunity to share their IT knowledge in an upstream mode. This creates a learning forum which facilitates the exchange of knowledge in the equitable capacity of both generations facilitating each other as both tutor and learner.

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