School’s Out For…Wait a Minute

What my summer courses taught me about building a community

To say that summer went by fast is an absolute understatement. As a matter of fact, it went as fast as Usain Bolt in EVERY single race he’s ever ran.

My summer = Usain Bolt

When applying for the CUNY J-School Social Journalism program, I was told that the year would be fast and furious, and that statement could not be more true. But seriously, the summer was quick and jam-packed full of pitching stories, collecting data, learning code and developing a code of ethics. And that’s just the short list. In 11 short weeks, I was introduced to Open Refine, Datawrapper, data scraping tools, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Adobe Premiere, and much more. I felt like my brain had been thrown into a blender. While the last few months were a bit blurry and a little messy, the end of my summer semester resulted in a beautifully polished set of new skills and a plan to better serve my community in the weeks and months ahead.

Actually, let’s talk about my community for a minute. In the same way that the summer was busy with #SocialJ work, it was equally busy for Wire the Wise. Just as a refresher, Wire the Wise provides intergenerational tech meet ups throughout Manhattan. This summer we were able to expand our service to Brooklyn, where we hosted two events in Williamsburg and Crown Heights. In addition to those new spaces, we also were able to host our first ever event at our very own CUNY J-School!

Wire the Wise event at CUNY J-School

While the growth of our program was certainly a priority this summer, we also took a break to really think through the mission of Wire the Wise and what major projects we want to tackle in the coming months. Here are a few of those ideas:

Legacy Project: In my work with our seniors over the past six months, I have realized that as important as it is to provide space for teaching tech, it is equally important to provide a space for seniors to share their stories with others. Our seniors have so much to share, but don’t necessarily have the audience or knowledge on how to share their story. That’s where the tech comes back into the picture. I plan to launch a legacy project that gives seniors a platform to share their life story with their families and those who choose to follow our publication. While seniors document their own life story, they will also be taught some simple video skills that they can then use moving forward.

WalkThru and Wire the Wise Private Sessions: While we are busy growing and sustaining our free public events, Wire the Wise also aims to build an online platform that would allow seniors to pay for private lessons and to be matched with young professionals who have volunteered with us before. In addition to this element, we will also be partnering with WalkThru to create user guides for sites and applications that our seniors want to learn more about, such as Google Maps and Skype. Both of these projects stem from our community needing additional support with technology that exists beyond what we are providing at our free monthly events.

Glossary of Terms for Seniors: As I’ve been working with and listening to over 300 seniors who are actively involved in the Wire the Wise community, I have quickly realized that the biggest barrier for seniors when it comes to technology is the vocabulary. For generations like mine that are comfortable with technology, it is easy to take for granted the ease at which we are able to easily understand and adapt to new forms of technology simply because we have an understanding of the terms associated with those devices and applications. While many seniors might have access to help and are given instruction, they don’t always understand the terminology that comes with that instruction.

With these projects in mind, I am excited to jump into the last semester of graduate school and cannot wait to get started!