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Children Tutoring Seniors at Internet Skills: An Experiment Conducted at
One Israeli Elementary School. 2000 - 3
Prof. Edna Aphek, Jerusalem, Israel

Getting Seniors to participate
I have already mentioned that the Alon school is part of the Mate Yehuda Regional Council.
In order to reach interested Third Agers we met with the head of the education department and with the coordinator of senior activities in the council. The latter advertised the project in the various towns and settlements, including Kibbutzim in the region and soon we had 10 candidates, all 55+.

Preparing for the implementation of the experiment
The next step was to find a teacher who would run the project in the school and serve as a liaison between me and the children and between the children and the seniors. Michal who is a Kibbutz member, a teacher and who also works at the Kibbutz guesthouse, was appointed head of project. Marilyn, the school's computer coordinator volunteered to come and help every
other week. Michal and myself had several meetings and decided upon the following steps:

  • developing criteria for choosing the young teachers
  • training the young teachers
  • deciding upon topics to be taught
  • choosing methods of teaching
  • documenting the experiment

Using a closed network, in Hebrew, as a platform for communication and documentation
In addition to frequent use of the Internet for school work, the Alon school is using The FirstClass outdated 2.6 version as its "intranet". Unfortunately there are no good intranets in Hebrew and though the SoftArc Firstclass software in Hebrew doesn't contain many much desired features it still is, I believe, the best "intranet" one could find in Hebrew.
The Alon students are connected to the TelHi network, at school and from home.A forum for the experiment was opened on the network. Each old learner was given an ID and a password, so that they would become part of the school's on line community. We also wanted to make sure that the process would be fully documented both by the "young teachers" and the "old learners".
This paper is based upon the careful documentation of the process, as written in the aforementioned forum.

Recruiting "Teachers"
Michal met with the school's Computer and Net Committee and told the members of the committee about the project. She asked them to help recruit the "young teachers". A suggestion was made to use the school's "intranet" to publicize the project.A decision was made to take only volunteers, knowledgeable in Internet skills, but first and foremost kind and patient.
Ten children 5th grade to 8th grade, boys and girls, volunteered to come to school on their day off to teach the Third Agers.
Fearing some of the children will get tired after a couple of sessions we had 5 more volunteers as stand by.

Meeting with the ''young teachers"
Michal and myself met with the "young teachers". We emphasized the importance of being patient, speaking clearly and loud, allowing time for practice, not helping the old learners, unless asked for,( children tend to click the mouse instead of waiting for adults who might be somewhat slower) and documenting the learning process.Together, the children, Michal and myself, decided upon terms and topics to be taught. Each child prepared a file for his/her student including a glossary of Internet terms and a list of search engines.

The course
The course duration was 5 weeks.
The "young teachers" and the "old learners" met on Fridays. The Alon school, unlike most of the Israeli schools operates 5 days only as part of an experiment conducted by the Ministry of Education.The "young teachers" were ready to give up their day off in order to train the seniors. They had to get up early, and be ready for the school bus to come and pick them up.
Each session lasted 3 hours from 8:30-11:30 with one break around 9:45. During the break teachers and students had the opportunity to eat, drink and socialize.

The process
The first meeting was held on May 25, 1999.
The headmistress of the Alon school opened the session and gave the participants a short survey of the history of the Internet.
One of the parents of the "young teachers" videotaped the meeting.
At the end of each meeting both teachers and learners documented the learning and teaching process in the forum dedicated for this project, in the TelHi network.
The following are most of the comments, suggestions and instructions as documented in the aforementioned forum.

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