Seniors at Internet Skills: An Experiment Conducted at One
Israeli Elementary School. 2000
Prof. Edna Aphek, Jerusalem, Israel
The Internet which connects about 200 million people and
millions of pages, voice, sound, image and video files has
become a most powerful tool in the hands of those who know
how to navigate it. The opportunity to use this powerful
tool exists and is open to most strata of the population,
regardless of the limitations of age, education, etc. Though
the opportunity exists what actually happens is that the
gap between Internet surfers and those who are not knowledgeable
in Internet skills, is ever-growing. The gap is widening
between youngsters, the primary Internet user population,
and adults and mostly seniors, who are not skilled at using
a computer or the Internet.
In the new Hi-Tech world, where children speak the new language
of the Internet as their mother tongue, it would be most
fitting to put their mastery to good use and train them
to teach this new language to senior citizens, those unacquainted
with the language of the Internet.
This latter age group might find much interest and relevant,
useful information via the net; they can study on-line,
meet new people via the Internet, find useful information,
participate in on-line interest groups, and contribute from
their experience and knowledge and most importantly feel
An experiment was conducted in one elementary school in
Israel, the Alon School in 1999, where ten Seniors were
tutored by ten children aged 11-14.
In the L'ouverture school in Wichita, Kansas, Anna is teaching
Internet skills to six adults. Anna is 9 years old, she
is in 3rd grade. Anna and her classmates taught Internet
skills to 60 adults, in one year. (1) We are now at a unique
crossroads in human history. Due to the innovative developments
in technology and especially in information technology (IT)
young children master very often computer and Internet skills
far better than adults. It's the adults who are like immigrants
in a new country, the country of Hi-Tech. As often is the
case in a country absorbing immigrants it's the children
who teach their parents the local language. (2) In the L'ouverture
school students learn Internet skills in kindergarten. By
the time they attend 3rd grade, every child has his/her
homepage, which they themselves built, on the Internet.
In this Hi-Tech world where children are fluent in the internet
language as if it were their mother tongue, it would most
appropriate to put their knowledge to good use and to have
them train others, in this case adults, in the language
The Knowledge Shift wherein children master knowledge much
needed by adults, is creating new learning and social interactions.
This paper is about intergeneration interactions.
In many schools, in different countries, children teach
Internet skills to their parents and to other adults. In
the Zippori Center near Jerusalem, a unique summer camp
took place last summer.
It was an Internet summer camp for grandparents and their
grandchildren. The young ones brought their mastery of technology
and the grandparents their knowledge of the English language,
which is still the lingua franca of the Internet. In Israel,
as you may know, the language spoken is Hebrew.
Another experiment that of elementary school children training
seniors in Internet skills was conducted in the Alon school,
in Israel, last year- May-June 1999.
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