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TeachSD: An intergenerational technology program

Students teaching adults? It’s a unique role reversal that has occurred in the Spearfish community over the past year – and it has been met with much success. Teenage students are taking time to share their smart phone and iPad technology expertise with adults 50 to 60 years their senior.

Called TeachSD, the intergenerational technology program was created by SDSU Extension and launched as a pilot project in Spearfish in May 2015. High school members of the Crow Peak Valley Rangers 4-H Club attended a day-long training session led by SDSU Extension Field Specialists to learn skills to aid them in teaching adults to use technology. After the training, the 4-H’ers teamed with the Spearfish Senior Center and hosted several individualized lessons for adults interested in using technology.

To date, the TeachSD technology trainers of Bridger Gordon, Ally Jilek, Anna Pochop, and Noah Pochop (pictured below) have provided over 50 hours of service to adults in Spearfish since the pilot began.

The adult “students” often came with questions about cell phones, iPads, laptops, and social media. After an hour-long session working one-on-one with a teenage teacher, many participants acknowledged they had a better understanding of using Facebook, texting and the features of their smart phone.


Program Goals & Feedback

SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist Leacey Brown notes that the goal of the program is to help adults become more comfortable with technology, which may help them maintain their independence and bolster their ability to communicate with their family and friends via technology.

Student trainer Bridger Gordon said he was interested to see the array of things the adults wanted to learn. As an example, one gentleman wanted to know how to create folders on his cell phone so he could organize his pictures. Another adult learner who attended several sessions often arrived with a list of technology questions.

Overall, the student trainers said it was fun to work with the adults, and the adult participants knew more about technology than they expected. The young people said they also learned more about technology because of the things the adults wanted to learn.

Kindra Gordon, who served as the Technology Trainer Youth Adviser, calls the project extremely rewarding – for both the students and adults. She explains, “It was neat to see someone in their 70’s send their first text or Facebook message to a grandchild and the look on their face when they got a message response from that family member. As well, it was rewarding to see the students put in a position of being appreciated for the skills and knowledge they could offer. It was a confidence booster for them.”

Gordon also says the project provided many lessons in communication. “The students had to learn to communicate at a pace and in terms that the adults could understand, and the adults had to communicate what issue they were trying to solve. But in addition to that, there was an opportunity for conversations to develop about everyday life. It really helped build some connections between the two generations.”


TeachSD Trainers Wanted!

SDSU Extension is currently recruiting young people to become TeachSD Technology Trainers to bring the program to more communities across the state. Technology Trainers may be part of youth groups (churches, clubs, etc.). Young people must attend the TeachSD Technology Trainer Seminar offered by SDSU Extension. Attendees will learn about aging, disability, experiential learning, learning styles, and strategies to teach older adults to use technology. After completing the training, attendees will be prepared to offer adult learners individualized technology lessons. A training is scheduled for October 5, 2016 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm MT on the Black Hills State University. Please call
605.394.1722 for details.

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