There is a global demographic shift with older adults increasing in number. With this shift comes many challenges and opportunities. Older adults may benefit from increasing their digital literacy skills, sharing their life experiences through story, and participating in lifelong learning. This thesis evaluates a project that provided these opportunities. The theoretical lens used is a combination of a life course approach, narrative theory, and social constructivist theory. The thesis used a case study approach that examined 15 offerings of a digital storytelling course attended by a total of 98 older adults. Each course ran for 8-10 weeks (two hours once a week). Data collection for the research conducted involved background information (including participant computer skill level), post course evaluation forms, focus groups, and a questionnaire handed out to viewers during a “Sharing our Stories” event. The findings indicated that there were more female participants than male participants and over half of the participants had immigrated to Canada at one point in their lives. There were a range of digital skill levels at the start of the course, with most participants claiming to be beginner or intermediate. Results suggest that most older adults who completed the digital storytelling course reported an increase in digital literacy skills (computer, software, and Internet) and digital storytelling skills. Educationally, the course was also seen to be beneficial as participants suggested they had learned something new, whether from the program, the process, or both. However, sometimes the technology posed a challenge and time constraints were highlighted as being an issue. Participants also reflected on their stories and lives, at times reliving them and reshaping their stories. The artefact created through digitizing a story was considered as a way to connect to future generations and current family. The digital storytelling course appeared to create social connectedness to self and to others (in the past, present, and future). These findings suggest that courses using story and technology and creating a community of learners can be a beneficial approach for older adult learning environments. This thesis research contributes to the field of older adult education and educational technology by providing a deeper understanding of older adult learning with storytelling and technology and the benefits and challenges this provides. It also offers insights into the experiences of older adults within a digital storytelling course and examines the way in which storytelling and multimedia can play a role in lifelong learning.
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Thesis advisor: Kaufman, David
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