The Vault

Dulce Rodriguez: Telecommunications Systems Engineer
White Paper / Oct 2017 / CREATORS

Discover how Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bristol, Dulce Rodriguez, turned her interest in how technology impacts society into a full-blown research project that aims to create a blended  intergenerational learning environment.

Dulce Rodriguez Telecommunications Systems Engineer June 29, 2017 CREATE. CONNECT. LIVE. 2 | Dulce © 2017 InterDigital, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | 3 As a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bristol, Dulce Rodriguez has an interest in how technology impacts society, particularly how people can use technology to improve their lives. Her current research aims to design and implement a blended intergenerational informal learning environment, where seniors and children with limited access to technology could work together to develop digital literacy. 4 | Dulce © 2017 InterDigital, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | 5 Dulce: I am particularly interested in working with groups that experience digital exclusion because it seems that everybody’s using technology, however, there are certain groups in society who actually are not using technology or their use is very limited. So, I’m working with two of these groups, which is seniors who are over 65 years old, particularly I work with seniors who live in a care home or in a retirement home. And the other group is young people, but those who live in poor areas, because their access to technology is very limited. So, what I do is put them in contact. They communicate through a virtual environment, through video conference. We only use free resources and any technology we could find in order to communicate. And they work together. The goal is that they should be able to develop digital literacy. What I mean by digital literacy is learning how to use technology but beyond the technical use of it. It’s about actually being educated in what’s going on when we are online. For example, when companies are targeting us to make money or how can we use resources that are online to improve education. Or how can we use social media, for example, to actually have a voice in the world and let the world know about the issues that these populations [that experience digital exclusion] are facing. So, being literate in technology is beyond learning how to manipulate it. Please tell us about the research you are currently working on… literacy is learning how to use technology but beyond the technical use of it. “ Q: 6 | Dulce © 2017 InterDigital, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | 7 Q: Dulce: Everything started because I lived in a retirement home for a few months. This retirement home is full of nuns. All of them belong to a religious congregation but they are retired so now they are like 85-90 years old. So, living with this group I realized that their brains are still thriving and they have a lot of knowledge to share. They are isolated, as once you live in a retirement home you start to lose connection with the world. How did you come up with this project and what were your motivations behind it? So, I started to use technology with them by sharing my iPad and getting them into watching videos on YouTube, finding music, and so on. And they got very into technology. At the same time, I realized that in Mexico, because a lot of people live in poverty, a lot of children are growing up by themselves on the street because their parents need to work all the time. So, these children have homes and they do have families but nobody takes close care of them. Then I thought, here we have a bunch of young people who want to be heard. At the same time, I have here a lot of older people who have a lot of knowledge and not a person to share it with. Then I thought about using technology as a bridge to allow them to communicate and to learn from each other. That was my motivation; that’s how everything started and now I’ve been doing this for around two and a half years. I thought about using technology as a bridge to allow them to communicate and to learn from each other.“ 8 | Dulce © 2017 InterDigital, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | 9 Q: Dulce: Four seniors (83 years old average) and 8 children (11-13 years old) participate in this research. However, the group members change all the time as I need to work with many different persons. My senior participants live in the United States, in San Francisco in a retirement home. This is the retirement home I lived in that I referenced earlier. The children live in Mexico, in a very poor area in Tijuana. So, the way it works is my sister lives very close to these children, to this area of the city, and she has been helping them for a long time. In that community, not those children in particular, but the community knows her. That’s how I was able to meet them. So, the only requirement is they need to be children between 11 and 13 years old. And that’s it. There are so many so I just work with the first eight that want to work. Can you expand on the participants and the specifics of the research? 10 | Dulce © 2017 InterDigital, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | 11 Dulce: The communication between seniors and young people takes place thanks to technology. However, there are challenges that make communication difficult. For instance, because internet bandwidth is limited, we can only have one videoconference at a time, and children must take turns to use the internet to search for information. Cellular communication has very limited bandwidth and voice quality is poor, so it is currently not an option. Ideally, video and audio communication between seniors and children should be crystal clear. This is vital because some seniors have hearing issues, therefore if there are interruptions in audio, the seniors can’t fully understand the children and may misunderstand what they say. Similarly, it is very important that video communication has good quality and occurs in real time, because seniors and children gather a lot of information from each other’s body language. Therefore, delays or bad quality on the video limit them to fully engage with each other. So, since you’ve been doing the program for two and a half years what would you say is your biggest challenge in doing the program? Q: In some of the groups, my participants spoke different languages because the seniors only speak English and the children only speak Spanish. In order to communicate with each other, we use apps, like Google Translate for example, and other apps to translate. Imagine if we lose some internet connection, the voice gets cut out and then the seniors cannot hear. Also, technological devices to make the video conference should be easy to use, not only the device (iPad, smartphone, etc.), but also the video conferencing software (FaceTime, Skype, etc.). This is key because some seniors may have difficulties remembering how to use them. If software or devices fail, seniors don’t know how to troubleshoot the problem. It’s very different from the seniors and the young. The young may not have that problem, they may learn very easily how to manipulate the devices but the young have, for example, the lack of technology. Many of them don’t even have a cell phone. Like three of the current participants, for example, don’t even have a TV. So, it’s another kind of learning. With the young, you have to explain to them how to use them but not technically. Let’s say what are the affordances of technology. What happens when you are online? And what kind of data is collected from you when you are online? What are the risks? All that stuff. 12 | Dulce © 2017 InterDigital, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | 13 Q: Dulce: It’s not possible to eliminate digital exclusion but I think my biggest motivation is that these two groups, at least the persons who are participating, are learning how this digital world works and how they could take advantage of it even though they are in excluded groups. So, by learning they will be able to do more than what they are doing now, and perhaps they will stop being excluded in that way. It could take on a personal level. At the same time when old people and young people work together, that is called intergenerational practice. This kind of practice has a lot of advantages for each group. But that’s beside technology. That’s only because they are very old and very young. For example, for the older people, they feel connected with the world, with someone, because they can speak, share their thoughts, and their knowledge. So, that has a direct effect on their health. They have something to do, if you want to put it that way. In the young people, it has a lot of impact in their resilience because they found someone that actually cares for them, like, in terms of what they are doing, what they like, how they feel. I always say that this project is using technology as a bridge to be connected. But one day one of our senior participants told me, “This is not about a bridge. This is about connecting hearts. I feel very connected to those children.” What were you looking to accomplish with this project? Or what have you seen so far as a positive accomplishment? This is not about a bridge. This is about connecting hearts. I feel very connected to those children. “ 200 Bellevue Parkway, Suite 300 Wilmington, DE 19809 +1 (302) 281-3600 |