Volunteers Help Seniors With Tech Tools

More than 60 local seniors improved their abilities to use personal computing devices at “Tech Day for Older Adults” at the Los Altos Senior Center May 17.

The free service project was co-hosted by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation linkAges TimeBank and the Los Altos Recreation Department. Partners included the Egan Junior High School PTA, the Bullis Charter School Booster Club, the Center for Age Friendly Excellence and the Stanford Alumni Association.

An estimated 80 volunteers taught seniors how to chat with friends and family via Skype and FaceTime; create a Facebook account; use laptops, tablets and smartphones; and participate in the linkAges TimeBank, a free service exchange network for all ages.

The event included residents of a range of ages, from teens to 80s.

“This is an amazing showcase of how technology is cementing the generations,” said Janet Corrigan, a Stanford alumna and attorney with Intel Corp. “Each generation has something to offer.”

Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter School students appreciated the interaction with seniors.

“At first, I was a little shy working with someone I didn’t know,” said Bullis Charter School sixth-grader Sebastian Vargas. “But I enjoyed teaching (a senior) how to FaceTime with his grandson on the East Coast. It was also cool to hear about what life was like when he was a kid.”

Kim Albright, Egan PTA president, praised the partnerships formed to host the event.

“We are glad to partner with the Bullis Boosters Club and linkAges TimeBank to facilitate this unique opportunity to serve and interact with a different generation of adults … right here in our own community,” she said.

A team from the Druker Center provided information on the components of linkAges, a multigenerational network that supports aging in the community. Members of the linkAges TimeBank were on hand to put into practice their community-building skills with seniors.

Alan Baker helped a senior optimize network connectivity and performed a general computer tuneup.

“TimeBanking is a great community builder in places where you didn’t know there was a community,” he said.

According to organizers, “Tech Day for Older Adults” embodied the concept of linkAges – linking ages for intergenerational teaching, learning and building community.

“These multigenerational exchanges and networks help to build a better future and change lives,” said Los Altos resident Anabel Pelham, professor of gerontology at San Francisco State University and founding director of the Center for Age-Friendly Excellence.

Developing Tomorrow’s Talent

People today generally agree that the goal of education is to convey knowledge. But if all the world’s knowledge is instantaneously available online via a mobile device, how does that affect what we need to teach in schools and through other educational channels?

Education is becoming less about acquiring knowledge and more about how to analyze, evaluate, validate and use the unlimited information that is available to us. We will need to teach more critical thinking, collaboration and social skills. Perhaps we will not teach answers, but how to ask the right questions.

Technology’s effect on education over the past decade has been transformative. As the Internet of Everything gains traction, that effect will continue to expand. The networked connections among people, processes, data and things will change not only how and where education is delivered, but will also prompt educators to reconsider what students need to learn, and why. As technology and networking become increasingly critical to businesses of all types across all industries, there is growing demand for individuals with specialized technology skills.

As an example, the top 10 jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004 (e.g.: Social Media/Online Manager, Sustainability Manager, SEO Optimization Specialist, etc.). These changes mean that students are currently learning information and processes that may well be outdated by the time they enter the workforce. How can the education and private sectors prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist?

Looking into innovative methods for advancing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education, Los Altos’ Bullis Charter School came to my attention. Bullis is helping students build an interest and comfort level with technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration through personalized education and focused learning goals for every K-8 student. The curriculum is centered on building the critical skills of problem solving, creativity and critical thinking.

Teachers at Bullis employ project-based learning assignments that marry instruction with hands-on learning and individual, as well as team, efforts to create an immersive and whole-brain experience that will serve these students well as they face an uncertain, ever-changing technology landscape. This early and steady exposure to STEAM subjects encourages more students to consider careers in these critical fields.

Bullis Charter School’s individualized, innovative approach to learning represents one way in which current educational standards must be transformed in order to meet the challenges of filling technology jobs. Below is a video of my conversations with Bullis’ principal Wanny Hersey, as well as teachers and students — watch and let us know your thoughts on transforming educational content and methodologies.

BCS Choir Earns ‘Superior’ At Festival

Bullis Charter School choir students participated in the annual California Music Educators Association festival earlier this month, receiving “Unanimous Superior” rankings – the highest score possible.

Each of the school’s five choirs, spanning grades 1-8, performed three pieces, adjudicated by three different judges. The choirs, which included beginning and intermediate levels, earned the highest rankings possible from each judge.

Sonore (comprising students in grades 4-6) and Mattiniere (grades 7 and 8), the intermediate-level groups, were tested on their sight-reading abilities. The choirs had to sing a two- to three-part song they had never seen before. Both choruses garnered “Superior” grades.