Learning Across Generations

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Cindee Snider Re puzzles2 square

It’s hot, so I stand under the awning at the back of the church where the sun can’t scorch the tops of my shoulders and the crown of my head. Two friends have invited me to join them for RibFest and let’s be honest here, what meat-eating woman passes up RibFest?

My friends and I agreed to meet at the church, where we can park for free, because we’re frugal like that. While I wait for my friends to arrive, I lean my right shoulder against one of the metal poles that helps support the structure of the awning, and reach in my purse for my phone. Scrolling past the text messages and email notifications, I tap my finger on the Lumosity icon.

These days, I’m more and more interested in “train your brain” apps and activities. I have time to play a couple of games before my friends arrive. It actually feels like playing. I match shapes and colors, jump through mathematical hoops, and tap away at the screen in an attempt to better my scores from the day before. The training is one thing, but I’m also learning a new way to use my brain.

Unlike my children, I’m not a digital native. The language of online and apps and FB status updates is not my first. While I consider myself fairly fluent, I still bristle when I have to consult my adult children for instructions on how to use the latest technological gadget. They try. Really, they do. But, eventually, my slow navigation of the screen gets the best of them and they say, “Here mom. Let me do it.” They tap and swipe and click and, voila! I have a new app on my phone or more storage on my laptop or a fabulous playlist for my Saturday afternoons.

Growing up, I watched as my mom played solitaire with actual cards, and my dad put together jigsaw puzzles on the coffee table in our family room. I’d sit with my dad for what seemed like hours. We hardly exchanged a word between us as we searched for nuances in the colors and shapes of puzzle pieces on the table. My dad taught me to work from the edges first, but after that, he didn’t offer up much more in the way of instruction. I watched and learned.

Eventually, my mom taught me to play solitaire. I remember watching her line up the cards on the marble-topped table in my grandmother’s living room. My mom explained card hierarchy to me, and along the way, I began to understand the strategy of the game. Watching over my shoulder, my mom would only sometimes make a slight sound if she thought there might be a better move I could make. But most of the time, she let me figure it out for myself.

Leaning against that awning support while I wait for my friends to arrive, I watch proudly as the app informs me I bettered my performance. A little trophy appears next to my score in first place at the top of the screen. I tap the screen to start a new “game.” I’m just a few seconds into it when a young girl bursts through the door of the church. She’s about eleven or twelve years old.

“Hi,” she says, and I think she smiles, but I can’t be sure, because I can’t look up from the screen in my hand.

“Hi,” I say, still focused on the screen, and tapping at shapes and colors.

She says something else, and I mumble a distracted response. Tap, tap, tap. The phone in my hand responds with tones of affirmation, and then rewards me with my new score.

“Whew!” I say, looking up to smile at the girl. “I’m sorry. I was distracted. I was training my brain.”

“Oh yeah,” she replies. “My friend has that app.”

“She does?” I ask. I’m surprised, because I think this app is only popular among people of a certain age. I look at the screen, and at the score I’ve just achieved. Then, I slip the phone back into my purse, certain this young girl’s friend would probably smoke me if we ever had to play against each other.

“Yep,” the girl says. “It’s fun, right?”

“It is,” I answer. “It is fun.”

Just then, my friends arrive. I wave good-bye to the girl beneath the awning. She smiles and waves back, and I think, I could learn a lot from her.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's Back-to-School season for many students in the United States. Parents are purchasing number two pencils in bulk and signing up for school-issued iPads and laptops. College students are stacking beds into lofts and making last minute schedule changes. All in the name of learning. But learning isn't just about school. In fact, most of us continue learning long after we've donned cap and gown and matriculated into the workplace. On Thursday mornings in September, we are exploring learning. Join us as we train our brains, head to the kitchen, and teach others what we ourselves are discovering. And drop us a note in the comments to tell us what you have been learning lately.

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Image by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by High Calling Managing Editor, Deidra Riggs.