Just Thinking About Things: How Personal Concerns Can Evolve Into
Thought-Provoking Research Questions
transfer of knowledge. Academic lingo for communicating and exchanging
knowledge with our grandparents, uncles, aunties, and friends whose ages
span different generations. However, these are the words of the future in
terms of who's learning what from whom. I have been leafing through
literature to see if anyone out there has an interest in understanding how
the transfer of knowledge is used between generations via the computer. Is
it still important to keep our families together? If so, has the personal
computer come to prevent us from alienating our older generation and vice
versa? The Internet has established a "global understanding" over the
years. Can this "global vision" conversely be named an "intergenerational
vision"? After all, we are all connected in some form or another. Could we
not extend our shared knowledge to all the generations on our planet
today? It seems that the age of technology has left behind a generation
of thinkers as well as values that were once key to holding a family
Historically, families lived in the same town and communicated on
a daily basis in person. Then employment opportunities called for
families to move away from each other. The connection was usually kept by
letter writing. Then came the steam engine (trains to make visits), the
telephone (let's call Grandpa!), and the jet plane (let's visit Grandma!).
Then, like a flash, technology gave birth to the personal computer and the
modem. Has this taken away from the personal nature of keeping family
connected? Would we just assume send Grandpa an email than see him and
enjoy a classic (and priceless) oral history of the family he tells so
Has the Internet changed the importance of the family
structure? Do Grandpa and Grandma have to get connected in order to spend
quality time with their Generation X grandchildren? Is that quality time?
I have many questions and concerns about the future of our generations and
their connectivity. I am primarily concerned with the family structure as
it relates to the transfer of knowledge via modern technology.
step is to find published literature about this subject. I started my
publication search using as many keywords that are synonomous with 'senior
citizen' and computers. This would help me establish the initial steps in
finding out if anyone else is interested in my exact topic or related
topics. Here is a review of
an article that sparked my initial interest.
"Computer Assisted Instruction With Senior Citizens"
David L. Groves Journal of Instructional Psychology, Sept. 1990, Vol. 21
Professor in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation,
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.
The case study was conducted in three phases and each participant
was closely monitored. Phase I consisted of interviews to determine what
the participants' current level of life satisfaction was. Each response
was unique and Groves incorporates this into the interactive model when
introducing the computer to the participants. The criterion for moving to
Phase II is the "acceptance of the machine as a tool in independent living
and the ability to competently function and use the machine for daily
living." The second phase consisted of illustrating the machine's
interactive capability and how it could be used to connect to the
community. Groves illustrates how accessibility to a computer is an
important initial factor. Many seniors do not have access to computers
based on financial restrictions and also based on their initial fear and
unwillingness to use a computer. Groves comments, "Most of the seniors
matured in a time when computers were not even within the realm of
comprehension. Only within the last ten years has the computer been even a
possibility in the home and business." Due to such little exposure to
computers by seniors, it was necessary to develop an instructional
methodology to introduce the seniors to the friendliness of the machine
and how it has potential application in their life (Reagan & Goldberg,
1984; Schneiderman, 1984; Sudo, 1984).
Groves further discusses that seniors who are exposed to computers usually
learn interactive computer skills through their grandchildren.
Intergenerational transfer of knowledge is key in connecting
technologically-based generations to those who's lives are not fully
integrated technologically (i.e. many seniors). The purpose of Groves'
model is to develop pedagogical techniques to teach seniors the use and
benefits of computers in their lives and how the machines can contribute
to seniors' life satisfaction.
In developing this model it was important who was chosen to
participate in the study. I felt Groves' initial screening was key to the
outcome of his study: "An initial screening was conducted of seniors
interested in participating in the project to determine their attitude
toward use of the computer. Based upon this initial screening, only those
individuals who have a positive attitude or an initial openness was asked
to participate in the study." This is so important in determining the
type of seniors who are interested in technology and gaining knowledge.
This is important information for future investigation into
The result of Groves' study was indicative of a new type of
information transfer. One of his clients who liked to play board games
would use the computer for these games and played only when her grandchild
visited. "The grandchild showed the grandparent how to use the machine and
play word games. The grandparent began to use the machine extensively for
problem-solving and word games. There was an increase in independence of
approximately 12% and life satisfaction by 17%."
This article is fundamental in establishing a base for further
research in the area of intergenerational transfer of knowledge in a
computer-related context. It is the essence of how initial methods of
exploring this topic are constructed. First we must define what quality
of life means for individual seniors. Second, we must ascertain whether or
not there is accessibility to a computer and understand that relationship.
transfer of knowledge is not the immediate topic of this article it
plays an important role in determining some of the ways seniors are
learning to use computers. Perhaps this information can point us in the
right direction for further study into how modern technology, namely the
personal computer, can connect generations and provide a base for
knowledge transfer. In other words, is technology changing who learns
from whom? Has the use of computers in the home and in business change
seniors' access to information? In modern times seniors are learning from
the younger generation when it comes to technology-based information.
Furthermore, does this provide for more connectivity between the
generations, family-based and society-based? I aim to investigate and
provide literature of those who have been researching intergenerational
studies. Hopefully, the readings will be just as informative and
intriguing as that of Professor Groves as he provided a most delightful
insight to constructing a model from which to assess important results
that will having much bearing on the future of senior citizens as well as
those they interact with.
This interesting case study explores how senior citizens are
integrated into and effected by new technology, namely computers. An
interactive model was developed to assess the effectiveness of computers
among senior citizens. Groves' goal was to determine if senior citizens'
interaction with computers improved their quality of life. Quality of life
in this study is defined as being able to maintain independence and having
control over one's environment.
INTERGENERATIONAL TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE: Practical Applications
This research has evolved into a work in progress therefore a
conclusion does not exist in the traditional sense. I have taken my
research out of the library and into the Pike Market Senior Center where I
am working on getting computers for the seniors there. My goal is, once
they have computers, to teach basic computer skills and then get them
connected to the Net! Like I said, WORK IN PROGRESS! In the meantime,
there has been a great deal of intergenerational transfer of knowledge
taking place. I have a personal journal to record the interactions that
take place at the Center. I guess you could call it field work of sorts. I
still use early steps in the research process: search for more literature,
seek out more sources, exhaust available resources when possible, and try
to keep notes about my progress.
Get Connected Now!
It's easy to do. These kids in the
Mendocino School District are swapping knowledge! See what they're up to!
Here is a resource sampler to help get you started.
Issues - Resources for Seniors
Additions to this page are welcome and encouraged. Transfer the knowledge!