Intergenerational Learning & Bias

Hello and welcome to our second guest blog by Liane Ojito of Miami, Florida. I’m so grateful she has taken the time to share her thoughts on intergenerational learning and bias in partnership with me and the non profit organization I advise, CCLAC. This is made possible by their founder, Mike Rohrbach. I also excited that Liane has shared this blog in both English and Spanish! Mil gracias and thank you for your efforts Liane!

Enrique

Read in English

What is Intergenerational Learning (IL)?

It’s defined as, “the way that people of all ages can learn together and from each other.” In my opinion, it’s the foundation of how we learn when we aren’t even conscious that we are in fact learning. As infants we absorb information. When we finally learn to speak we start with words and quickly express so much more than just mere sounds. It’s as if we’ve unleashed the ability to suddenly participate in language, almost all at once.

All this time we spend learning from the people around us, right? Tones of voices, facial expressions, sounds and behaviors. It’s fascinating how quickly, within approximately one year of being on this planet we can learn to communicate. What then is it that shapes our minds to stop learning and close ourselves off from others that we otherwise can learn from? This is what I consider bias, a form of prejudice and stereotype.

What is Bias?

Is it an attitude we adopt? Is it a shunning of those different from ourselves? A cultural attitude perhaps or a generational attitude? Well, thats a sociological and psychological debate which permeates society. From the elderly looking down at the inexperienced to the children self-absorbed in their own worlds and all of us in between making sense of it all. However we choose to look at it, there is a new phenomenon that needs addressing in the ever-present here and now!

How has technology impacted our learning?

Technology has permeated our very existence. Think about it. People used to have space and time to think with perhaps a phone ringing at home and yet were unreachable when they went out and about. Now we are all expected to be on call at all hours. This has changed our ability to interact and how and why we interact. The depths of which range vastly from shallow comments to sharing thoughts while all being heavily impacted by invasive and constant advertorial messages. In this information generation, there is a lot to distract and sift through.

In the past, we were fully present, to those around us of all generations. People opened doors, now they may even walk into glass doors while looking at a phone during any “free” time available. These times have hastened beyond a measurable scope and we are all suffering in how to combat the weight of being available to the “rest of the world” versus “being available to those closest to us in our world”.

What are we neglecting?

Weeds grow where we let them, I think. Now, what is a weed in the garden of humanity? The addiction to phones, tunnel vision of interest and neglecting the humanity around us. That is not to say technology has not made leaps and bounds in progress, simply put though, its interests are speed, connectivity and progress in a way that is obstructing humanity’s ability to interact in real time.

Think about this, who makes the technology? The high-tech wizards of this day and age are young, hyper-focused coders that create algorithms based on corporate needs. They may be financed by larger corporations to address technical coding issues, however the realm in which they operate is mainly virtual. Could the elderly provide a new perspective that would be more far-reaching in scope, that was more encompassing of real variables and factors that are not included in AI these days?

How much influence do our elders have in new technology?

Aside from perhaps funding projects, it can be difficult to find the relevance technology has in new interpersonal relationships. Our elders traversed all the problems of life without looking at a phone screen, chances are they aren’t convinced that they are necessary or why. Take social media, elders don’t base their personal worth on social media likes, and chances are they shun the desperate need for attention that this generation seeks from distant acquaintances that are now called “friends”. Consciousness is our ability to understand ourselves and others now that we communicate faster and perhaps in shallower ways. Are we obstructing our ability to become consciously mature?

Which brings me to question of depth of character.

Our elders have a depth of character that only living life can attain. Longevity in the realm of life accounts for more that sheer “likes”, namely popularity. Experience can lead to wisdom and that wisdom is not necessarily imparted in the creation of say, video games and frequented social media sites these days, which in many cases doesn’t appeal to the elderly. There is a prejudice, isn’t there? A divided input from a whole generation. It seems we’ve shunned the wisdom of our closest elderly and replaced them with a vast sea of informational overload.

Generations have grown accustomed to high doses of technology and are inherently neglecting and abandoning the traditional teachers. Who can truly help you to learn real substance and character beyond the fictional flat on-screen characters? When you compare news of yesteryear to news of today, stories took the place of headlines and people had discussions. This has been replaced with threads among strangers about headlines and people taking to angry sides on shallow issues instead of intelligent debates. After all, “comments" are spare of the moment not well thought out as true conversations have become scarce. So many resort now to acronyms and emojis! :0)

What does age mean?

These days, not what it used to. Children are more and more oblivious to real life. Sheltered by multiple-devices across platforms like cell-phones, gaming and TV watching. They (if not we all) are distracted to the extent of senseless entertainment while parents are also addicted to do more online to generate success for their families and all the while the generational disconnect is growing deeper.

Emotions were once something we were forced to deal with, in quiet moments, face and overcome as we listened to parents and grandparents speak of trials and tribulations and how they traversed them. These days kids go off with headphones and remain oblivious to the realities of the world, remaining ignorant and immature far beyond their school years. Nowhere near as involved with other generations as previous generations had to be to entertain themselves and each other. The human need to grow and learn does not cease to exist, but how we need to connect now remains perplexing.

What is being learned in place of creativity and maturing?

Distraction I think. How to avoid real interaction. How to email instead of talk. How to hide behind a screen instead of confront problems or even address them. That leaves this very real challenge on the older generations to break through the screens and headphones and take a very active role in modeling maturity for our youth on how to manage time and social responsibilities. After all, technology is taking the place of real social learning and as a human race we are all suffering in real time conversations.

Once upon a time the elderly took care of the children and cooked as the able bodies went off to work and found food. This is a natural state of development that has been fundamentally broken since the industrial age and we must now make a commitment to reinstate. After all, what youtube video channel is more important than the wellbeing of your mother or father or grandma or grandpa? So the challenge is now, we must use this technology as an instrument to reconnect each other. Younger generations have the speed and know-how of how to access information and can now help older generation reach a vast array of information. At the same time, they can begin to communicate on more substantial topics that can recreate mentorship as does the non-profit organization CCLAC, to use technology as the very tool that bridges the divide.

What are we racing toward?

Smart phones have taken the place of etiquette and replaced it with speed of communication. However the quality of rapid interactions is also suffering. Just because you sent a text does it mean it was read? Just because you wrote a post, does it mean it was understood? I often use the term degeneration, as language so full of beautiful words has been distilled to generic acronyms that seldom even reflect a true sentiment. How many times do you really ”laugh out loud” audibly when you type LOL? Furthermore, how do those with wisdom beyond text feel when you interrupt the opportunity to listen to them speak because you got a text message or an email you feel is worth interrupting a genuine moment so you can type an LOL?

I think if we don’t address the issue of genuine conversation, we will continue to loose children to mood swinging medications as they are loosing a grasp on reality and becoming dependent on fickle interactions that govern their moods. Identity cannot be based on “likes” and their perspectives need very real interventions. Otherwise we have a degeneration of our youth, seeking attention in the form of pills and “likes” void of true self-worth. It scares me.

Isn’t it time to take action?

Don’t you feel compelled to do something about this issue? I remember when bringing computers to schools was a big thing. As a matter of fact, I remember one of the first things they did was introduce kids to a game we played in school in computer class, “The Oregon Trail”. It was the first time I played in a game that all you talked about afterwords was a score. Other games board games or PE, we elicited laughter in groups, speaking to each other and interacting in social ways.This new game was a sense of competition for numbers' sake and nothing else socially.

If you translate that across decades deep fragments, socially we are shattering our intergenerational framework. I mean, do you tell your husband or wife, I got these many points in a video game? Or, “hey mom I got this many likes on a picture?” Or furthermore, “grandma I made 5 people LOL today!” What does that mean to anyone really? Our perspective needs to change to accommodate humanity as a whole, not ourselves but our entire family’s ability to cheer for what is important to all of us.

How many shares did you share? That is a step beyond ourselves that technology has divided. How about adding all the likes of the family as a whole (if that matters)? Of the household? Or having the patience to include those without screens to passionate topics to you that aren’t privy to offline? Do we listen to their input on where our attention is going? Why isn’t it going to them? Oh yeah, they don’t want to bother you, they feel like they are a burden because others are too busy with connectivity to open up the world to them in real time and they feel neglected. I think taking the time to explain the value of online interactions with those that don’t use it could help them understand what it means to you personally and perhaps encourage them to want to use the platform in ways they may not understand are available to them.

To open-up consciousness isn’t to impose your will or be too impatient to explain. It’s to release your bias to another human being and listen to their unique perspective and allow for a moment of sincere interaction. I was at a restaurant for dinner recently and there was a very joyful 1 year old at the table next to us, not yet able to speak but eager too. Her mother was caught up in a conversation with her mother and her girlfriend. The little girl looked at the man at my table (no man at hers) and was desperately trying to get his attention, she giggled, she threw a napkin, she cooed, she reached to the extent of her chair to get him to notice her. She was adorable, but he was on his phone working. Her table was involved in a conversation and didn’t notice until she dropped silverware. What did they do? Give her a cellphone. True story.

This story addresses true learning, of which we are all constantly engaged in wether conscious or subconscious, (learn more at www.globallearning.foundation).

Is there something you can do?

Thank goodness, there is. Anything you can do to foster and aid your community to increase education on this matter and include multigenerational teaching. Whether it’s mentorship for children or children teaching adults to use technology, we can turn this ship around and use technology to reunite generations with intergenerational learning. Let’s involve our elders, let’s consult all generations. Let’s put some quality control on this technology thing! Libraries. educational systems, universities, churches, recreational activities, senior centers, hospital visitations or any other creative way you can think of. Please be an advocate for your community and make things happen, then you can LOL feeling you’ve made a positive impact across generations. And that LOL will feel warm and fuzzy (lets start a new acronym, FWF!) Let’s make FWF a challenge to see how much we can do to move humanity in the right direction on the evolving platform of technology for the sake of all humanity.

Liane Ojito

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