Tlast year underlined an even greater dependence than already existed on technology, which highlighted generational differences as much as music or fashion never, if not more.
This gap inspired a creative collaboration between the teens at the Spokane Community School and the elderly in the community who managed to push both generations into exciting new areas using technology they had never worked with before. .
Like so much else in the COVID age, this joint venture between the Spokane County Retiree and Senior Volunteer Program and students has evolved dramatically along the way.
When Spokane County Principal Justin Eisenstadt’s RSVP first approached project-based high school, he envisioned an intergenerational storytelling program with an emphasis on the written word. What they came up with instead was a pilot project in which students created five- to 10-minute podcasts focused on the experiences and stories of senior volunteers.
Eisenstadt first discovered the concept after he started attending Cyber Senior webinars to learn how to improve the online skills of seniors.
“I reached out to offer technology training to our seniors,” Eisenstadt says. “When I started talking with them about this training, it became clear that the training had to be focused on a specific activity. The area that struck me that could work virtually was educating and mentoring young people, especially with students who were already doing online learning. . ”
But podcasting was not on his mind.
“Justin’s original idea was more of a pen pal, where they wrote back and forth,” says Nathan Seaburg, a community school facilitator. “We saw an opportunity with students of these talents to take a bigger swing. Part of what drew us to the idea for the podcast was the collaboration. There was shared journaling in the beginning… but one of the things we’re actively looking to promote is how to collaborate on authentic products in a meaningful way where students are interdependent on each other and the community. ”
Seaburg and the Community School are equipped with video software, three ad hoc studios and a few microphones. They also line a few closets with quilts that they will use as studios when they want to make the audio sound crisper.
To find out what is working well and what is not, students spend time listening to podcasts. And while they have a lot of creative freedom with their podcasts, each is given similar guidelines.
“They will be given a general question or theme to help them guide the story they want to tell for this podcast,” Seaburg said. “It became two [senior citizen] volunteers for each group of three or four students. It will be interesting to see: do they choose a story or a hybrid of the two life experiences? Everything revolves around the intergenerational experience and what they have in common. ”
“It’s a huge business – a lot of things have to come together,” Seaburg said. “Our students will be attending these Microsoft team meetings with these seniors who don’t have the best browsing technology. They need to develop rapport and relationship on the Internet. It’s easier to disengage, turn off your camera and scrolling through social media. To create a podcast around a certain theme, there are a thousand ways to hurt and it’s intimidating. ”
Eisenstadt’s original vision for the senior writing project did not completely disappear in the process. When researching how to engage seniors online, his contact at Cyber Senior webinars gave him information about a study conducted at McMaster University in Canada on the benefits of journaling on cognitive aging through an app. they developed called Writlarge.
The study began in 2019 as a purely academic project looking at what loneliness and social isolation mean for older people, according to Victor Kuperman, one of the researchers. Kuperman and his colleagues have since moved the study to examine loneliness during the pandemic. They developed a different version of the Writlarge application for student specifications to help the Eisenstadt project.
As older people registered in the app, learning new tech skills, McMaster researchers obtained valuable data for their study, and community school students got some of the scaffolding for stories from their podcasts.
When students finish their podcasts this month, they will have the opportunity to have them heard by a larger audience than their classmates. Eisenstadt hopes to share some of these through the Spokane County Retirees and Seniors Volunteer Program website, rsvpspokane.org, and its social networks. You can hear eight episodes of Community school presents: my favorite mistake at rss.com/podcasts/thecommunityschool.
This pilot project has a lot of moving parts as well as the potential to put students under a lot of pressure, but Seaburg thinks they can handle it.
“There’s a lot of nerves because we’re taking big swings here,” Seaburg said. “I have to remember to bet on the students because they will always get away with it.” ♦