Grandparent's Day Helps to Bridge the Gray Divide

Grandparents are important stakeholders in our nation’s schools. They are there when we need backup, emergency pickup, or someone to rush to school to save the day with forgotten field trip forms, lunch money, or other necessities. Do you want a wonderful way to offer a heartfelt “Thank You!” to these gentle, reliable souls who give so much to our schools? Perhaps you want to give a hearty “Welcome!” to those who desperately want to feel invited into their grandchildren’s everyday school life? Then, consider hosting a Grandparent’s Day Technology Event!

Lifelong Learning Comes Home

It is a fact that Americans aged 50 and older use the Internet less than do their younger counterparts ( Fox, 2004), and that divide becomes much larger for the 65 and older population (Fox, 2004). Many of these simply lack the opportunity to learn the basics: what the Internet is, how it works, and how to safely navigate the World Wide Web. What better place to learn than with their grandchildren? One of the greatest advantages is that this one-day introduction can serve to open the door to advanced learning from the students, create an intergenerational experience, and bring families closer.

To execute this shared learning, invite participants to a “Lunch and Learn” where grandparents will come to eat lunch with their grandchildren during the week preceding Grandparent’s Day. This allows each grade level to have its own “Lunch and Learn” day and will accommodate the number of grandparents expected to attend. Before the students’ scheduled lunchtime, a short, twenty-minute seminar introducing the Internet and its uses can be given, accompanied by a sign-up sheet for a more in-depth Family Technology Night later in the week, or even during the week following.

Open Access to All

Make sure that all grandparents, not just the ones who attended the “Lunch and Learn” sessions are invited to the Family Technology night(s). Be sure to limit the number of attendees to the number of available computers, but be creative! If your school enjoys a closed-circuit television broadcasting system, then consider broadcasting the presentation throughout the school so that the classroom computers can be used in addition to the workstations in the labs and media center. Keeping the presentation to a minimum and allowing maximum time for participants to explore is key.

Too many respondents? What a wonderful problem to have! Why not schedule two blocks of learning? Instead of having grandparents come for 2-3 hours, keep the sessions at 90 minutes and double up!

Tips for Presenting

Do you remember the first time you logged on to the Internet? For me, it felt similar to the first time I drove my car without an adult. Here are some things to keep in mind when presenting to computer “newbies”.

  • Slow Down : When presenting online content, allow plenty of time for participants and their pint-sized tutors to access the material you are showing.
  • Keep it Simple: General use of the Internet and simple safety tips are all that should be shared during this informal session. Don’t overwhelm.
  • Relevance is Key: Adult use of the Internet varies by age group. Older adults prefer information from the Internet, not the latest TV reality series. Make sure that any links you choose to explore are relevant, but not boring. Suggestions: online encyclopedia, news sites, health information, Internet tutorials, etc.

Additional Opportunities

Consider having an online survey available for grandparents to complete. Check for future interest in technology classes. Ask for feedback. Most of all, thank them for everything they do for your school and for being willing to model life-long learning for the students at your school.

Email:B. Ge-Anne Bowdoin

References

Fox, Susannah. Older Americans and the Internet, Pew Internet & American Life Project, March 25, 2004. Retrieved on July 14, 2006.

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