CR&DALL Seminar Series Report: Learning through Intergenerational Practice

This was a half-day seminar to introduce aspects of intergenerational learning, tutoring and research. The day was introduced by Prof Vonu Thakuriah, director of the Urban Big Data Centre at the University of Glasgow, who introduced links between lifelong learning and the aims of the centre (for example, inclusion, access and transportation).

The first of the speakers was Prof Mike Osborne, Director of CR&DALL Chair of Adult and Lifelong Learning at the University of Glasgow and Co-PI of the UBDC and integrated Multi-Media City Data (iMCD) projects. Mike introduced the implications of the iMCD survey, GPS, life logging and social media data in investigating living, moving and learning in Glasgow for older learners. Mike discussed the novel uses of Big Data in Education to explore learning cities, past, present and future, and particularly what such data can offer in terms of 3D models of learning in the city and further examination of lifelong learning within and around Glasgow. This part of the UCDC’s work would include inquiring into the experience of individuals in helping others to learn.  

The second speaker was Jane Watts, Senior Research Fellow, National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education; she discussed the meaning of ‘generations’, the role of older adults and grandparents in child learning and community learning approaches to solidarity (rather than ‘othering’) between the generations. Retirement changes, ageing populations, public investment issues (investments in older adults’ learning are decreasing), older adult poverty (the problem of how to organise learning in these circumstances) and adults' lack of learning skills (we do not really teach people to learn) were discussed. The concepts of family-learning and multi-generational learning initiatives (such as the Beth Johnson Foundation) were introduced. Jane Watts pointed out that the Schmidt-Hertha's observation that intergenerational learning phenomenon is under-theorized and rather is only supported by evaluations of applied projects. 

The third presenter was Tiina Tambaum, a junior research fellow at the Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Tallinn University. Tiina announced that it was Independence Day for Estonia and began with a comparison between Scotland and Estonia demographically and educationally. Tiina then described the impact of learning in old age, presented quantitative findings on low levels of adult computer usage in Estonia and in the UK and introduced the concept of the ‘soft expert’. Tiina highlighted the importance and need for re-structuring of inter-generational learning of internet skills by giving the conscious role of being an instructor or a disseminator of knowledge to adolescents. She argued that ‘soft experts’ need to be provided with basic skills for their duties. Tiina noted that there were only a few Estonian projects in the area, such as ‘Grandparents & Grandchildren’. Finally, she presented her doctoral thesis implications for young tutors when teaching older adults.  

The final presenter of the day was Alison Clyde, a National Development Officer at Generations Working Together, who presented on ‘intergenerational work promoting wider achievement and building effective external partnerships’.  Alison discussed the challenging generational stereotyping, and re-focusing the discourse of intergenerational learning on confidence-building, mutual respect (and benefits) and skills/ capability to improve community cohesion.  A variety of Scottish projects were presented as case studies for GWT under 9 themes, such as employment, early years, and topics such as WWI, cooking, IT, health and music.  Alison has highlighted government support for such projects and the online GWT Toolkits and Educational Resources for upcoming training opportunities and information for those wishing to get further involved in developing partnerships/ projects.  GWT’s national conference is on the 4th March 2015 at The Lighthouse in Glasgow.

The conference concluded with thoughts for what we can each personally do to make a difference to older and younger people. 

The presentation slides can be accessed here:

Author: Dr. Catherine Lido

Dr. Catherine Lido is a Research Associate with the Urban Big Data Centre and working on the integrated Multi-media City Data (iMCD) project.

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