Children Tutoring Seniors
at Internet Skills: An Experiment Conducted at One Israeli
Elementary School. 2000 - 2
Prof. Edna Aphek, Jerusalem, Israel
The Virtual College for the Third Agers
and how it all started
It all started with the Virtual College for Senior Citizens
which is an initiative of the College Department in the Ministry
of Education in Israel. (3) We, (I am using the 'we' form
since I am heading this project), at the College Department
felt that the new technologies could revolutionize the existing
social system and serve as a powerful tool to give senior
citizens an opportunity to obtain asynchronous education regardless
of age, previous education and location constraints as well
as making them part of the new order the IT is creating. In
light of the above the Virtual College for Senior Citizens
While working on the development of the Virtual College for
the Third Agers, we realized that though the number of seniors
using the Internet is on the rise, many are still lacking
in Internet skills.
There are about 600,000 seniors 65+ in Israel.
About 9/8% own their own p.c.(figures according to 1997 census.)
Israel's population is about 6000000.(4)
800,000 are connected to the Internet. A very optimistic,
non-official estimation suggests that about 10% of the surfers
are Third Agers.
I doubt very much this "rosey" estimation.
However, whatever the exact number maybe, still many Third
Agers are not skilled in using the Internet.
We, at the College Department, decided to use the knowledge
of young children in IT in order to train seniors in Internet
skills thus creating new social interactions.
I am a great believer in the need for knowledge to be passed
on. The Israeli government has invested so much in schools
both in equipment and in teaching the youngsters computer
and Internet skills that it would be only logical to put this
accumulation of knowledge into use, in this case for the benefit
of the Senior community.
The Alon school, in the Mate Yehuda region was chosen for
a mini experiment. Before introducing the Alon school I would
like to point out that the uniqueness of the experiment at
the Alon school, as far as the Israeli scene is concerned,
lies in the fact that elementary school children served as
teachers. We didn't know of the L'ouverture activity, of which
we learnt much later. The idea to work with younger children
and not with high school students, something more common in
Israel, was mine and it met with skepticism and much criticism.
Most of the members of the Steering Committee of the Virtual
College for the Third Agers were against it. They preferred
to have high school students as teachers.
I was adamant, and in this case I am glad I was.
I felt that the younger students would be less cynical, more
giving and patient than the older ones. My choice paid off.
About the Alon school
The Alon school is an elementary school in the Mate Yehuda
Council, about 20km. from Jerusalem, at its southern entrance.
The school serves a mixed population 1-8, from three Kibbutzim
near Jerusalem two Moshavim (communal settlements ) and new
It would be most appropriate to note that it has always been
in the Kibbutz tradition to care for the community; the Kibbutz
still has a highly developed social structure in which the
elderly work even at a fairly old age and are well cared for.
Therefore, when I approached the headmistress of the Alon
school and asked her if she would be willing to run an experiment,
where children from 5th grade on would be teaching Internet
skills to the Third Agers, she was rather enthusiastic.
I serve as an academic adviser to the school and thus am quite
knowledgeable about the students mastery of Internet skills.
The Alon school, under my guidance, has fully integrated the
computer skills and IT in the classroom.
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