“The other 21st century learners” was an issue discussed in a session about Baby Boomers at OEB 2008 – it was considered a “natural” addition to the Generation Y focus of this year’s conference. Many diverse aspects were touched upon by the presenters, ranging from learning-needs assessments for seniors to intergenerational aspects of learning to potential improvement of workers aged over 45.
Baby Boomers do have their own pretensions regarding e-learning. They desire a rather participatory design for e-learning modules, they appreciate joint reflections on what they are doing as well as a good tutoring and moderation style: This is what Nick Kearney – a British e-learning expert currently working as a consultant in Spanish-speaking regions – experienced while exploring senior e-learners’ habits. What he wanted to make clear in his presentation “The Other 21st-century Learners” was that dealing with senior elder learners not only means creating accessibility., but Tteachers should also bear in mind the heterogeneity and the value of experiences of older people as well as their need for social activities and communication. Many people in the Spanish-speaking world were fascinated by bloggers aged 90 and older, Kearney added as an example. Their brio and the way they articulate themselves could serve as real role models for the future – with e-learning and digital communication offering much more fun enjoyment even for elder older generations.
The fun aspect of working with the Internet as a senior was an aspect Valerie Wood-Gaiger, UK, also focussed on in her presentation “Recognising the Value of Internet Research & the Opportunities Presented for Intergenerational Communication, Learning and Fun”. As a member of the Baby Boomer Generation, she figured out what an intergenerational exchange between elder people the older generation and the younger one could look like while using the Internet and other digital resources. For several years now, Valerie Wood-Gaiger has developed teaching materials for children branded “Grandma’s stories”, which make extensive use of web research possibilities. This helped her bringing together her life experiences and teaching abilities with in-depth knowledge about the subjects she wanted to teach. On her own, she learned how to find reliable sources, contacts and institutions to help her with historical questions she was dealing with in her books – a rather informal way of acquiring digital skills as a senior that could also bolster other “Grey e-learners”.
Stefano Menon, Politecnico di Milano, Italy, offered a slightly different focus in his presentation “LLL Experiences: E-Learning System(s) as a Sustainable Model for the Ageing Society”. He was mainly talking talked about lifelong learning aspects which he has dealt with in research projects addressing the needs of elderly older workers. With the so-called REFOCUS (SenioR Employees Training on inFOrmation and CommUnication technologieS) initiative, which Menon worked for as a project manager, the EU wanted to find out more about training needs that would allow companies to reassess the skills of their over-45 workers. The platform that REFOCUS developed for this purpose relied heavily on video lessons and open source platforms like moodle, Menon explained. Taking into account first findings from field studies in the UK and Italy, the projects showed that e-learning could help the companies to provide better sustainability in the learning process as well as higher involvement and motivation, although the project revealed national differences regarding interaction, communication and interactivity.