Through a collaboration between UNBC and School District 57 (Prince George), students aged 8-12 thought about how they could use technology to connect with older family members and had the chance to win a Google Home smart speaker donated by Best Buy Canada.
The need for technology to connect older adults with family and friends came into sharper focus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent collaboration between the School District No. 57 (Prince George) and the University of Northern British Columbia gave elementary students the chance to think about how they can use technology to keep in touch with older family members.
“There has been an increase in the use of technology among older adults over the last year, but keeping multiple generations connected is so important,” says Dr. Richard McAloney, director of the Centre for Technology Adoption for Aging in the North (CTAAN) at UNBC.
Students got creative as they thought of ways they could use a smart speaker to connect, support, or engage with an older adult in their family or community. They came up with ideas including using the speaker to help schedule virtual visits, reading together and helping with arts, crafts and baking.
Students submitted short written entries and had the chance to win one of the Google Home smart speakers donated by Best Buy Canada.
“This contest was a fabulous opportunity for students to share some of their stories. During the pandemic period we know that connecting to older adults has been a challenge for many students – especially those with grandparents or Elders that live in more remote or First Nations communities, long-term care homes or in different countries,” says Andrew Lee, a vice-principal with SD57. “To be given the chance to think about creative ways to connect with older adults or Elders and to actually win a Google Home device to implement their ideas was just such an amazing experience for students.”
Submissions were open to students aged 8-12 in the Prince George Secondary School (PGSS) family of schools (elementary schools that feed into PGSS). A judging panel reviewed approximately 50 submissions.
"I was very impressed with the thoughtful and creative ideas that students came up with for using a Google Home Device to connect with an older relative,” says Rosa Coelho, a Grade 5 Teacher at Van Bien Elementary.
The ideas went way beyond the typical “Hey Google, what time is it?” and offered fun and creative ways for the students to connect with their loved ones.
“Reading the students’ submissions put a huge smile on my face. I was impressed by the creativity of the children and most importantly the deep connection to older adults in their life,” McAloney says.
Examples from student submissions include:
- “I would set an alarm for after dance to call them.”
- “We could set a timer for the cookies we bake. Cookies are so good.”
- “Google Home would be awesome for setting reminders about birthdays, holidays, or when to call.”
- “And we can have a dance party on the phone.”
- “If they are sad I could read them a story to make them feel better”
- “We could make a paper air plain and also a paper chicken.”
- “…Call an elder to help us spell."
“This was such a great way to raise awareness around the use of technology and intergenerational connectedness during such a challenging time in our world,” says Lee. "I would also like to send an acknowledgement to the Prince George Tech Group (PGTG), whose collaborative forum over these past few months enabled SD57 to partner and make this project a reality.”
Several organizations in the Prince George area worked together on the Google Home giveaway including PGTG, the College of New Caledonia, CTAAN and UNBC.
“The intergenerational connectedness highlighted through this initiative opens up new opportunities to foster connection, and collaborative learning across generations using technology,” says Sara Aghvami, Director of Best Buy Health Canada. “It was delightful to see students' ideas on how they can use tech to support older Canadians and how technology can act as a facilitator for connection and an enabler of independence. “
The collaboration with the School District 57 (Prince George) is an example of the partnerships CTAAN, which launched at UNBC in November, is forming with organizations across northern B.C. CTAAN is an AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub.
“Technology should enable, empower, and engage those who use it to support healthy aging,” says McAloney. “Together with great partners, we’ll create amazing aging in the north.”