Saturday, August 01, 2015


Service-Learning and Social Media Collide: Students Teach Elders Facebook


Individuals who are 55 years of age and older are the fastest growing demographic using Facebook. But there are some older grandparents looking to gain friends and check in with their grandchildren. And so, Dr. Rik Hunter, assistant professor of English, developed a class for students to teach local elders what all of the "liking" is about.

The class, Digital Literacies, is part of the College's service-learning initiative, one of 17 courses with a component of service built into the curriculum. Hunter's students, a total of 20, are in week three of their Facebook lessons to eight elders from St. John's Meadows in Rochester.

Each week, St. John's transports the residents to campus, to take part in the class. There are eight students developing lesson plans and doing one-on-one instruction, and the other 12 students are paired in instructional document design teams. Those teams are creating a website based on the lesson plans developed by their peers that can then be shared with those who are participating, and the rest of the St. John's community.

Facebook Service Learning

Hunter came up with the idea after hearing a story about his wife's grandmother, who just started using the social media website in the last year. She was reading through status updates from family members and saw one from her granddaughter, who had just posted her senior class photo. She saw comments from others referring to more photos, and was frustrated that she couldn't see them. A family member had to walk her through the process, and helped her find what she was looking for.

"This is a generational issue tied to how we think about photos working in the analog world compared to the digital world. In her mind, photos are static," said Hunter. "Technological barriers such as these are standing in the way of elders participating on sites like Facebook, and we wanted to help change that."

Through this class, the students are also studying the impact of information technology on research and teaching, the social and cultural dimensions of technology, and models of writing associated with digital media.

 "I think this is a really great way to get the generations together," said Debbie Hammond, director of social recreation at St. John's. "To watch the relationships developing between the 'teachers' and the students is really heartwarming."

Channel 13's Patrice Walsh came to class this week, and interviewed students and elders, shining a light on the importance of service-learning as well as great interaction between two generations.

Rik Hunter Service Learning

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Indiana Campus Compact is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for significant funding in support of programs, training,and resources for our member campuses that allow them to deepen their commitment to community engagement and service-learning.