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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cornell Tech PhD Student Teaches Roosevelt Island Seniors Web Literacy Skills During 8 Week Course - Opportunity To Learn Things Quite Out Of The Ordinary Says An Appreciative RI Senior

Roosevelt Island Seniors recently completed an 8 week Web Literacy Course taught by Cornell Tech PhD Student Vibhore Vardhan held at the Carter Burden Roosevelt Island Senior Center.

Image From Cornell Tech

According to a Cornell Tech spokesperson:
... This past week the course held its final meeting to celebrate all the progress the senior students made throughout the course. The course didn’t just cover basic computer skills like Microsoft Word or typing, seniors learned skills such as advanced search techniques, creating web pages, privacy and online safety. The seniors were incredibly engaged -- often classes ran past the scheduled end time because they wanted to continue exploring the course topics! Cornell Tech looks forward to more engagement with the senior center.
Image From Cornell Tech

Jay Jacobson was one of the Roosevelt Island seniors taking the class. Mr. Jacobson reports:
... about the Web Literacies course. It's been one of those serendipitous happenstances between the Island and Cornell Tech that reminds me of the reason for the interest of older folks in retiring to towns where educational institutions are located. The informal connections that residents get to have with activities at or around the institution provide opportunities to do or to learn things that are quite out of the ordinary.

Our young instructor, Vibhore Vardan, first met a bunch of seniors in November of last year. While it was not clear at that session what we would be doing in a program entitled "Web Literacies", it was clear that those of us at that first session had computer skills ranging from adequate to absolute rookies. When the twice weekly meetings got under way in December, instructor Vibhore quickly helped us rookies by explaining, "This is a computer, and this is how you turn it on." I, for one, felt very empowered. And I decided that this was a program with which I wanted to continue.

While apprehensive at first at teaching a class of people who might qualify chronologically as his grandparents, Vibhore (who asked us to call him by his first name) showed us the elements of internet access. He helped us understand that a "browser" was not someone hanging out in a library trying to get a date with the librarian; that a "program" was something we could learn to use to get to do the things that we wanted to do on the computer; and that a "website" was something other than a place where Spiderman had frolicked.

Our group settled in at about eighteen consistent attendees. Vibhore began to learn some pedagogical techniques. He asked us --courteously and deferentially-- if we would make it a point to get to the instruction sessions on time. He accepted (but soon overcame) questions that we asked that were interesting to us but that were inconsistent with the syllabus that Vibhore had created. He started each session off with a review of the prior session. He gave us homework. He showed us techniques for finding information efficiently by making search engines work for us. We learned about protecting ourselves as we wandered about the internet, and the difference between secure and insecure sites.

And as the weeks passed, our one hour sessions began to expand. We couldn't cover all that we wanted to in 60 minutes. Nobody left. More questions were asked. Ten, then twenty, then thirty (!) minutes were being added to each session.

As we ended, we realized what a very effective teacher Vibhore had become. He is patient. He is knowledgeable. He recognizes that the terms that persons fluent in computer knowledge use are not useful to a bunch of senior neophytes. He invites questions and comments.

Each of Carter Burden, the Senior Association, and Vibhore has done a splendid job in giving a bunch of RI seniors the chance to learn a little more about 21st century communication technology. And to recognize that savior to people who have enjoyed writing, the magic of "spell-check".
Roosevelt Island resident Sandra Guy took the class as well. Ms. Guy adds:
I enjoyed the format of this course because each student was able to work at their own pace.

Our instructor, PhD student Vibhore Vardhan, was very helpful, knowledgeable and approachable.

Before taking the course I already had some computer skills but the classes increased my knowledge on search, social media and online.

I believe the Web literacy course should be an integral part of the Senior Center activity calendar.
During the January 25 Roosevelt Island Construction & Community Task Force Meeting, Cornell Tech Assistant Director of Community and Government Relations Jane Swanson was asked by Task Force member Christine Delfico if Roosevelt Islanders over 55 could sit in on Cornell Tech classes for free as some other NYC area schools allow.

Ms Swanson replied it was difficult to do that for graduate level computer engineering courses but she is willing to explore having discussions or conversations on a variety of topics (What is Artificial Intelligence) with the community by "post docs" and PHD students.



Great idea to have these types of learning opportunity conversations with the Cornell Tech faculty and students with Roosevelt Island residents.

Hope it happens!!!

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