While trying to resolve a minor technical issue recently, I was surprised to find a partial resolution to my issue on WikiAnswers which concluded with these words:
“For other models, ask a teenager to show you. Most of them are technologically fluent.”
In the field of information technologies, the Digital Natives have the answers…
Broadly speaking, in terms of demographics, a strong distinction already exists between what various authors have described as Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z (or Digital Natives) resulting in a substantial digital divide when it comes to usage and fluency with information technologies.
In an effort to bridge that gap, Get Your Folks Online was launched last week by Google Ireland in partnership with Age Action Ireland. The website features a selection of short courses for beginners and “improvers” that are broken down into small manageable chunks (Using the computer, introduction to the Internet, e-mail, TV and video, shopping, video calls etc.). Each section consists of a lesson plan (that can be downloaded) and includes learning outcomes, activities, tips and links.
When it comes to technology adoption, reality is of course more subtle than the above generational distinction since other factors such as gender, socioeconomic background, broadband access, or simply curiosity and motivation also play a role. However, recent statistics for Ireland published by ComReg (and quoted by the Age Action official press release) seem to corroborate the existing generation gap:
“[…] only 35% of people over the age of 50 are using the Internet, while the majority of people under the age of 50 are online.”
What makes this initiative really attractive is that this platform is not laid out as a traditional content-based course. It is rather designed to support reverse mentoring whereby the more junior person becomes the mentor as opposed to traditional peer-mentoring. In other words, Get Your Folks Online focuses not only on the lifelong acquisition of new skills from the learner’s point of view but also on the ability of younger generations to pass on their technical knowledge (in a mentor capacity) to their parents or grand parents.