Virtual Reality and Selfies: Students Become Teachers as They Introduce Senior Citizens to the World of Technology

Photo credit: Jeff Dicks

This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories, and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.

For today’s teenagers, fiddling with virtual reality goggles and navigating every possible aspect of a smartphone is second nature. But for senior citizens, it can be another world. So recently, two groups of students brought their technological knowledge beyond their own domains, guiding seniors into a new world of shared learning.

Connie Bauer, a resident of United Presbyterian Home in Washington, Iowa, who had once visited the Great Wall of China, was able to make a return trip with the assistance of eighth-graders who brought virtual reality goggles from their classroom at Washington Middle School.

“It’s just really fun to share it with them and see what their reactions are to everything, and since they might know more about it than we do, yeah, it’s pretty cool,” eighth-grader Greta Rothe told KCRG.

Teacher Connie Svenby, who uses the virtual reality goggles in her social studies classes, joined with Superintendent Jeff Dicks for the trip as a way to get both the students and the seniors thinking a little differently.

Amy Kleese, wellness director at the home, says the seniors love when students visit, and the VR offers a unique activity that is not a part of the regular day-to-day.

Dicks tweeted that his favorite line of the day was hearing: “They didn’t have this in school when I was there.”

Bauer says that for the less-traveled seniors, VR is the next best thing. And students get a chance to learn from the life experience of the seniors, especially those who have actually visited some of the worldwide attractions.

The Washington Middle School students plan to make this a monthly event so seniors can virtually visit Ireland, the Grand Canyon — a nearly limitless list of locales.

Meanwhile, in Rustburg, Virginia, high school students from the Campbell County Youth Advisory Council and Campbell County 4-H became teachers, helping seniors learn to text, save photos, and more.

“I think it’s good, because this is a way we can learn,” Sharon Bobbitt told the News Advance newspaper. “We all don’t have somebody at home that’s younger to teach us.”

“It’s cool to connect with people from a generation that I normally don’t get to connect with,” student Hannah Schrock told WDBJ. “They’re willing to help you, just as you’re willing to help them.”

Students say volunteering taught them intergenerational communication, showed them skills they take for granted with new eyes, and reinforced the importance of lifelong learning in a fast-moving society.

By the end, selfies were popping up on Facebook, a (high school) senior-to-senior connection linking generations.

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