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A study in reciprocity: Minimizing the digital divide and the intergeneration gap - Children tutor seniors at computer and internet skills and get a lesson in history - Prof. Edna Aphek, Jerusalem, Israel

For the first article

This paper describes an on going program initiated by Prof. Edna Aphek and carried out at the Alon School in MateYehuda, in Israel.

The program aims at minimizing the intergeneration gap and the digital divide by having elementary school children tutor seniors at computer and internet skills and at the same time write together with the seniors a digital "mini ebook" based on a chapter from the senior's personal history.

The rationale of the program

1.The Hi-Tech information-oriented society is a society, which places much emphasis on the new and the changing. In such a world the past looses its importance. The voices of past knowledge and experience become obsolete and the chasm between the generations, the old generation and the young ones, becomes insurmountable

2.The new technologies have created a new situation, rather unknown in human history. A situation wherein young children master a skill much needed by adults in general and seniors in particular. In the new Hi-Tech world, where children speak the new language of the Information Technologies 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 computer and the internet.

3. Knowledge endangered: the dire need for preserving knowledge at risk of disappearance
Precious knowledge is stored in the heads of senior citizens. Many seniors are "walking treasures" of history, of folk art (their art work) and of music about to disappear.

Project objectives

The project aims at combining the vast experience and knowledge of the seniors with the mastery of computer and internet skills of the young ones, thus fostering new social interactions and minimizing the generation and digital divide.

Project history
The project started in 1998 at the Alon school, in Mate Yehuda. In this program children ages 9-13 tutor seniors at computer and internet skills, and together, the young teachers and their old learners write an electronic book describing a chapter in the personal history of the senior tutee.

Thus, the element of reciprocity, wherein children tutor the seniors at computer and the IT and learn from the seniors about the past, becomes a key element in this project.

a. The model
The Alon model, developed in light of our work 1998-2001 is a tri-stage model.

The preparatory stage, the activity itself and summary - evaluation and assessment.

1. The preparatory stage: (pre-teaching)

Young teachers:
Training in tutoring skills: breaking down a topic into sub- topics, learning communication skills, acceptance of the other, distancing oneself from prejudice and stereotypes, being patient and tolerant of lack of knowledge and slow pace, criticizing and encouraging a learner.


A preparatory session with the seniors giving them some background about the history of the internet and its components.

2.The activity itself: 10 weeks.
Meeting once a week, for 3 consecutive hours.

5 weeks: tutoring the seniors at computer and internet skills.

5 weeks: writing together an E BOOK, a computerized version of a chapter in the personal history of the senior.

This stage includes: searching the internet, encyclopaedias, books.

Scanning - pictures, documents, art work etc. all connected to the seniors past history

Recording: recording what went on in the session by both the "young teacher" and his/her tutee.

Reflecting over the session: each session ends with a discussion with all the participants as to their feelings and suggestions for improving the process.

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