Seniorlab: An Innovative, User-Driven, Lifelong Learning Project Based on the Experiences of Senior Citizens
2009 EDEN Annual Conference. Innovation in Learning Communities. Gdansk, Poland
Carlos Bezos (Value Creation), Isidor Fernàndez (Citilab – Visual Anthropology Archive), Rosa Casanovas (UGG), Doris Moreno (UAB), Artur Serra (Fi2cat), Ricardo Torres (Fi2cat).
The objective of Seniorlab is to put senior citizens at the centre of the knowledge society, under the belief that they should not have to adapt to new technologies and tools, but rather that these should be adapted to senior citizens’needs, and it should also be taken into account what they can provide to society. Seniorlab is, in this context, a social innovation that regards people – senior citizens in this case- as the drivers of social and cultural innovation.
Seniorlab uses a project-based learning approach, and also borrows from the Living Lab methodology; members meet twice a week, and receive formative sessions on the technology tools they require for the projects being developed. The 13 members of the team also participate in meetings to follow-up on these projects, discuss and propose new ideas for innovation, and share experiences with other groups and organizations that are interested on this area. Through some the projects that were carried out, slideshows became family photo albums, and video was used to create a record of the places they have grown and worked in. This in turn meant they not only had to learn how to use new technologies, but also how to do research: how to conduct interviews how to search for a file, how to document facts. It is essentially a combination of project-based learning and a Living Lab methodology: the users are at the centre of the open innovation process, and are involved at every step of it.
The project has just reached its first year of life. As of today, Seniorlab is a Living Lab community composed of 13 members, who during 2008 have developed a number of innovation, learning and difussion projects centered on new technologies. Seniorlab has also played the role of observatory for innovation projects developed for and by senior citizens.
The activities developed at Seniorlab have been focused on the interests and needs of the members themselves; instead of starting with ICT courses, a different approach was taken: through the use of focus groups and observation, the interests ans needs of the group were identified, and then it was decided what tools were necessary for the execution of the related projects. The training sessions were done as workshops rather than as formal courses, based on the requirements and feedback of the participants, A lab/meeting ares is being set-up, and a blog was created (http://seniorlab.citilab.tv); this is maintained by the Seniorlabers themselves.
Additional results are the promotion of a techno-social identity among senior citizens, bringing them closer to technology; a high level of enthusiasm and involvement in the project; and providing the participants with a basic knowledge on tools such as blogs, video recording and slideshows. There also some specifics results, related to the projects developed by Seniorlab, and which are structured around two main axes: the Memory and history axis, and the Technology axis.
So far, the Seniorlab experience has been a successful one, and we intend to keep on developing new projects and ideas, always driven by the users themselves. All projects have been proposed as prototypes that can be improved and expanded, either from the content or the technology point of view. Proven methodologies and tools could be applied to new environments, and current projects could be improved and enhanced by using new tools and applications. The project is starting its second year with an expanded group of Seniorlabers, including the ones that participated in the first edition and additional members in the coordination team.