By Ann Marie Foley - 24 January, 2014
Mercy Mounthawk, Tralee, and Pobalscoil Inbhear Sceine, are the two latest schools where teenagers will teach adults how to better use their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.
Young students, mostly in Transition year, offer one-to-one tuition to older people and those less adept at using digital devices. Both generations learn from each other in the process.
“I learned about senior citizens,” said one young person who took part in the scheme.
“I found out that older people are really interesting,” said another.
Young people also spoke about discovering more about how adults learn, of gaining a better understanding of what it is like for their teachers, and how by teaching they themselves learned more about digital devices. Other young people were pleased that they helped people, and said it made them feel good and realize that they have valuable digital skills.
121 Digital, as the scheme is called, is run by Fintan Mulligan. He told Catholicireland.net that he saw that many people cannot use a mobile phone.
“If they are not able to (use a mobile phone) they will become isolated and they won’t be able to get information. The government has spent millions on eGovernment, and at the moment there is a voice at the end of the ( land) line, but that won’t always be there,” he said.
The first course was in Fintan Mulligan’s local schools in Ashford, Co Wicklow. Now there are 22 volunteers, who are mostly parents of students in participating schools, and they act as hosts and mentors to the young people who do the actual tuition. Each young tutor is paired with their older learner at the first lesson and they work with them throughout the course of seven lessons. There is one class per week lasting 80 minutes and learners are encouraged to practice between lessons – to reinforce their learning.
The initiative has spread all around Co Wicklow and is currently expanding in Kerry with courses already in Dingle, and schools in Tralee and Kenmare have confirmed that they will participate. Meath is expected to be the next county where schools will set up courses. Hundreds of transition year ‘tutors’ have been involved, and over 700 participants have attended 121 digital courses since 2010. The oldest ‘student’ is 93 years of age and the youngest 40, as most people younger than that are digitally aware.
“When they are leaving they say I love my phone, I hated it when I started this course, I love it now I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. I am sending more text and I am getting more calls. I’m in touch for the first time in years. They say I’m cracking this digital thing I’ll be back with a laptop. And some of them do come back,” said Fintan Mulligan. “It is the generosity of the young transition year students who make this possible.”
One of the schools which has already run a course commented that the scheme provides a “maturing experience,” and “community building, intergenerational and interpersonal skills” to the transition year student volunteers. They also said that it encourages shy students to be more confident in the company of adults and it allows confident students to show their peers how to interact with seniors.
By Ann Marie Foley