Teens Learn to Teach Seniors About the Internet

Google contributed grant money for the Kansas City program, which will match teens with seniors who want to learn about going online and using the Internet.

Google Fiber arrived in Kansas City in the fall of 2012, and now Google is helping to get more people—particularly senior citizens—up to speed on using the Internet so they also can take advantage of the super high-speed fiber service.

To do that, Arts Tech, a Kansas City, Mo.-based youth organization that works with underserved urban teens to help them develop marketable artistic and technical skills, is using grant funds from Google Fiber and other organizations to train a group of local teens so that they can then teach senior citizens about using computers and the Internet.

The program, which is providing training for the teens right now, was unveiled by Dave Sullivan, the executive director of Arts Tech, in an April 14 post on the Google Fiber Blog.

The Arts Tech project to match teens and seniors for technology lessons is being funded by the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, a pool of money that was made available to nonprofit organizations that want to close the digital divide, wrote Sullivan. The funding comes from Google, The Sprint Foundation and other groups.

When Sullivan heard about the funding possibilities, he envisioned a local project that could match the 44 percent of seniors in the area who don't use the Internet with the 93 percent of local teens who use the Internet regularly, he wrote. "My colleagues were excited by the idea; after all, it fits right in with our mission to help urban teens develop technical skills. But I was really blown away by the excitement and enthusiasm our teens showed. Dozens of them said they'd want to participate in a program like this."

Arts Tech then applied for and received a Digital Inclusion Fund grant, and local students are now training to be able to work with seniors later this summer.

"This isn't a walk in the park for these teens; we've pulled together a pretty rigorous 60-hour training program," Sullivan wrote. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, students join us to learn about computer hardware, in-home networking, the Internet and computer software. They're also learning how to work with seniors, and how to develop their very own digital literacy curriculum (like planning classes on how to create email addresses, and how to use social networks to connect with friends) that they'll be able to teach by the end of the program."

Alex Villasenor, director of computer redistribution at Arts Tech, who is teaching the course to the teens, told eWEEK that there are 20 students in the class at present. The teens are about halfway through their training so far, he said, and will also gain lessons about their communities and neighborhoods and the needs there are for volunteering.

Once the training is finished, by sometime in July, Arts Tech plans to have a big event where the seniors and teens can be brought together for mutual learning, said Villasenor.