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As If It Were My Grandfather

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As If It Were My Grandfather

As If It Were My Grandfather

Intergenerational learning at the Feltrinelli School in Milan.

Who amongst us hasn’t heard this question asked by a grandmother or grandfather, a great-aunt or another elderly relative? A question that conveys a request for help. Project Grandparents on the Internet, promoted by the Fondazione Mondo Digitale, also answers questions like this. In this case, however, the experts are not coaches, but students. The same kids who hear these requests for digital help from their grandparents every day.

We are at the G. Feltrinelli Industrial Technical Institute in Milan, directed by Danilo Guido, for the presentation of the new edition of the digital literacy course for senior citizens. In the auditorium, which proudly commemorates founder and benefactor Carlo Feltrinelli, surrounded by model airplanes, ca. forty students face the prospect of becoming teachers for the first time.

"After a point-by-point explanation of the topics that will be covered, ranging from what a search engine is to how desktop icons work and how to book a train ticket and use SPID, the students were asked to express their opinions, doubts, and concerns freely," explains Tullia Romanelli, the local coordinator for the Fondazione Mondo Digitale.

"For most, the thorniest issue is worrying about not being able to answer the grandparents' questions. But they were quickly reassured by the teachers, because it is not necessary to have all the answers ready." Indeed, the strength of intergenerational learning is learning together. People over 65 learn to use computers and cell phones more confidently, while the students understand how much patience it takes to become a teacher. In fact, one of the main observations was "how can I patiently understand and explain something that is obvious to me"?

"Avoiding quoting Lev Vygotsky's concept on the zone of proximal development to the students, I asked them to think about the method and motivation they use with their grandparents," adds Tullia. "Sentences such as the following ensued: 'Don't tell me about it, I have two elderly aunts who call me screaming' or even 'Then I'll do it just as if it were my grandmother!'. I thus learned about fragments of sentences and moments of life, with the awareness that what you don't know can be learned together and that drawing on your own experience by putting yourself in someone's shoes is always a good starting point. From next week and at the end of the seven meetings, we will see how many new grandparent-grandchildren relationships will be created, thanks to digital technology that can unite even the most distant generations."

The training courses, which begin next Tuesday 23 January, are based on the intergenerational learning model and will be held in the school's computer labs. The coordinating teachers are Paolo Acunzo and Elisabetta Corbellari.

The course includes seven 1.5-hour lessons, always at the same time, from 3.00 to 4.30 pm. Students (in the role of teachers) help over-65s understand the skills necessary to use new technology. Two courses will be available (requiring registration) and the maximum number of participants for each course is 15-20 grandparents.

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