First started as an final year project for four students, #CanOneLah! wants to turn into a full-fledged campaign.
During the circuit breaker in April 2020, 25-year-old Rishiikanthan Vijayahkumar saw how his elderly mother’s struggles with video call as she tried to keep in touch with his siblings who had moved out.
At that time, the final year student from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information was brainstorming with his teammates on what they were going to do for their Final Year Project (FYP), which was soon approaching.
That’s when he thought: “Why not try doing a digital literacy campaign for seniors?”
Together with his teammates, Ann Wee, Febby Lee and Grace Lee, all in their early 20s, #CanOneLah! (COL), which aims to help illiterate seniors learn basic digital skills, was born.
As part of the campaign, the team runs the “Can Learn Lah” workshops where seniors are taught basic functions of how to use WhatsApp, YouTube and Zoom. These include how to add contacts or unmute to speak.
COL has partnered with seven Senior Activity Centres (SACs) in Singapore to conduct the workshops at their premises. They have also sourced for volunteers from NTU’s welfare service club to help out.
At the workshops, the curriculum is geared towards the functions in communication tools that do not require texting such as voice message and voice search. Seniors are taught to familiarise themselves with icons in the apps to create a mental map, rather than rely on words on their phone screens.
“Most of these seniors have lower education or come from lower income groups, so we thought it would be best to teach them through pictures, sounds and videos. Based on feedback, this has resonated quite well with them so far,” Grace told Youthopia.
COL has helped over 80 of these seniors from these centres and they intend to reach out to “all sorts of elderly island-wide” in a post-COVID-19 future.
The team also took things one step further and created a WhatsApp group with the seniors to follow up with them, as well as for the seniors to ask questions they might have.
“We don’t want the learning to stop at the workshops. We want to give the assurance we are always there for them and that their needs are not forgotten,” said Grace. Febby added that doing so is in line with their campaign’s tagline, “Going digital is easier together”.
The team also wants to let the seniors know that they are always with them on their journey of digitalisation, which goes beyond COVID-19.
“In the long-term, such initiatives will certainly encourage more seniors to embrace the spirit of lifelong learning and pick up new digital skills together with their friends,” said Chiam Hui Yu, a Staff Nurse at Xin Yuan Community Centre, one of the partnered SACs.
The team also came up with guidebooks, aptly named How Ah?, which serves as a reference for seniors whenever they encounter any difficulty.
They also filmed two series of videos titled One Cool Thing and Really Meh? to address myths regarding the smartphone and clarify common misconceptions that seniors may have.
“The toughest part was that we had to do everything in all four languages,” said Rishii. “There was a lot of translation work going on and we had to fact check everything – so it was really four times the effort.”
This was consistent with the team’s goal to make their campaign to be as local and accessible as possible.
“We decided on the name ‘Can One Lah’ as it is an affirmative phrase that conveys a positive learning attitude,” shared Ann.
Adding on, Febby said: “A lot of existing digital literacy campaigns use very formal language, so we wanted to bridge the gap between seniors and digital literacy.”
The team also shared some of the collateral with their parents and grandparents, who were more than supportive of the endeavour.
“I shared the materials with my grandma who later shared it with her friends, which was basically free promotion for us, so that’s good,” said Ann, with a laugh.
What started as a FYP project turned out to be something that would bless the quartet in more ways than they could have ever imagined.
“We are passionate in helping seniors digitise and focused more on building friendships with them rather than going for a larger scale campaign,” said Febby.
Moving forward, the team has been conducting Zoom consultations for the seniors and are also teaching them on how to beware of scams.
The team is looking to make COL into a full-fledged campaign upon their graduation from university. Alternatively, they are considering handing COL over to the NTU student welfare services or the partnering SACs, where the four of them would take on the role of advisors.
“In school, you would normally just pitch ideas but don’t actually execute them in real life. I’m glad that our FYP allowed us to do something with a real social impact,” said Grace.
Ann added: “It’s easy to get lost in the fact that this is a FYP but when the seniors thank me and I think of the relationships formed, it just feels really gratifying to see all the work that you’ve put in pay off.”
Echoing a similar tune, Rishii said: “When I saw my mother video calling my sister purely on her own, I could see the impact our campaign made – and that is the biggest reward for me. This project goes beyond our grades.”
Find out more about #CanOneLah! here: https://www.canonelah.com/
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