Computer Informations Systems Instructor John Daley approached me and said, “You know. There’s a human interest story here on campus, and it involves our older learners. Go see Beena Koshy in the Resource Room, and she can fill you in.”
So I did. And he was right. And here’s the story…
To begin, we need to back up to Fall 2010 when Gretchen Seifert, Director of Admissions, attended the Scott County Senior Expo at Shakopee High School. This event was “hosted and presented by a collaborative of organizations and providers dedicated to serving and celebrating seniors in Scott County” (City of Shakopee Community Center brochure). Breakfast was served, speaker Stan Tekiela talked about birds, another speaker spoke about some other interesting topic and there was a vendor area that featured services for the older population. This is where Gretchen put out a flyer that read “FREE CLASSES for 62+ CALL TO REGISTER 952-516-7002”. The brightly colored flyer caught some eyes, and suddenly she had ten interested potential students on the list. Clearly, lifelong learning is important to this group.
One of the interested seniors was Darrel Sudheimer, a business owner from Waconia. Beena Koshy and Georgia Kelly, resource center staff at the time, starting working closely with Darrel in the resource room, and started to see some themes emerge. The older students were usually born in the 1930’s and had seen first hand the effects of the Great Depression. Some showed doubt in themselves, yet they looked to the instructors as people to help them and rarely showed impatience.
According to Beena, technology provided a bit of a challenge. “People from our generation take things for granted, such as writing or printing a Word document, wheras the senior group has been isolated from computers. They crave that knowledge.”
John Daley recognized there was a very diverse learning curve in computer skills, and asked for a second set of hands in his classroom. Beena sat in on Computer Information Systems class and noticed that having seniors in the room changed the class dynamics. “Seniors ask engaging questions, they are proactive in learning and draw out other people to engage in discussion. The younger students were overwhelmingly nice and willing to help the older students. There was mutual respect going on.”
“It helped me step back and look at learning in a different way,” said Beena. “They all have young spirits. Some hit rough patches but powered through. Their attitude was more of “How was your day?” rather than, “Can you help me?”