Saturday, 20 April 2013

Spring Online Week

It's Spring Online Week and Citizens Online's Get IT Together programme are running events all week to help people get online.

One example is our Bristol project who are out at the Cinema encouraging people to try out their ipads this week. 

Spring Online - iPad Surfing in the Cinema! - Bristol

On Thursday the 25th April, Kerry and her Bristol volunteers are hitting the Odeon before the Silver screening of 'Quartet'. They will be in the lobby offering those going to see the film the chance to use an iPad and see some of the useful features they have.

Spring Online: Northern Ireland
As part of Digital Unite’s Spring Online week, two new six week free fun and informal computer courses will be starting on Tuesday in the Rowan Tree Centre, Pomeroy at 12.30pm and in Clogher Valley Community Centre, Augher at 8pm as part of the BT Connected Communities initiative, in partnership with the UK charity Citizens Online Get IT Together campaign.  BT and Community Digital Champion volunteers will also be helping two classes in Glasgowbury, Draperstown improve their computer and internet skills from 7 – 9.15pm  – maybe they could chat to each other for free using skype- realising yet another benefit to being connected online.  Meanwhile older people in Maghery Community Hall will be springing online with help from members of the local youth group showing them how to use ipads and download useful apps as part of an intergenerational project.

An awareness raising session showing the benefits of being online will take place at an older people’s networking event, run by O4O, in the Crieve Centre, Stewartstown on Wednesday at 11am.

On Thursday a Drop In IT Session for people looking help with their computers eg downloading photos, sending emails etc will take place in Ederney Town Hall, Fermanagh at 11am along with a cuppa and a chat.  Whereas in the evening, the over 50’s will have the opportunity to get online at a beginners IT course in Cavanaleck Leaf Centre, Enniskillen.  Meanwhile in Tyrone, a new computer confidence course targeting older men will be starting at 6pm in the Rowan Tree Centre, Pomeroy, with a Drop In session afterwards at 7.30pm.

Finally, on Friday, older people will be getting online in Crescent Community & Cultural Centre, Caw, with the help of Supporting Communities NI and our own digital Champion volunteers.  Participants include both this year’s and last year’s Pensioner of the Year.  Down the road in the BEAM Social Enterprise Centre, Maydown, the next group of North West graduates will be starting their GAP employability programme, searching for jobs online, uploading CV’s and application forms and carrying out online exams to gain additional qualifications, finding placements and hopefully gaining employment.  Statistics to date are very promising.

Get IT Together Bristol’s co-ordinator in the Cities top 50 Happy list

Get IT Together Bristol’s co-ordinator in the Cities top 50 Happy list
The Times has a Rich List, Bristol has a Happy List :)and our own digital inclusion champion, Kerry Bradshaw has made that list – voted as one of the 50 people who bring smiles and cheer to their fellow Bristolians every day.
Kerry Bradshaw coordinates the Get IT Together project with Citizens Online and the Bristol City Council to offer free computer clubs for the over 55’s and people with a disability in Bristol.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Award for Achievement and Perseverance - A Case Study from North West Sutherland

On 28 March 2013 local learners gathered for a 'Celebration of Learning and Perseverance'. The event was organised by a group started in October 2012 as a result of a partnership between Get IT Together and Helmsdale and District Community Association, with ten learners  in total have completed thirty weeks of training in use of the Internet and in basic computing skills. The Community Association also sourced a number of recycled laptops through the ReBoot scheme in Forres- which will remain in the community centre for community use: a real asset.

The group was taught by the very able Morag Black, a tutor with substantial experience in adult education and who students clearly adore. One learner stated ‘Morag has been incredibly patient- she works just at our speed and I never felt left behind’.  Morag has had to work extremely hard during her time in Helmsdale- not least when one of her learners arrived in class with a new computer running Windows 8- an operating system 'hot off the press' is always a bit of a challenge, and as this is a major overhaul, it is even more daunting than usual. Unsurprisingly, Morag rose to the occasion.

Before receiving their certificates, students demonstrated their hard work – with fantastic PowerPoint presentations, a recipe book, and a collection of reminiscences of times past. Students have learned a wide range of key skills – from emailing to Skype, and even managed to mail merge and create address labels for Christmas cards.

 The event itself was well attended, and although local Councillor Deirdre Mackay was unable to attend, she stated 'Congratulations to everyone who, as a result of the close partnership between Get IT Together and Helmsdale and District Community Association, are now confidently surfing and navigating their computers!

I'm delighted that this project has met with such success. Over the past few years there has been a steady demand for basic computing classes in Helmsdale.

'With the Internet now a firmly established way of life and a means of paying bills, shopping, connecting with loved ones as well as research, it is critical that everyone who wants to has access to learning how to use it.

'The Community Centre is well kitted out and a great resource for classes like this. In rural areas such as ours it is also important that people have access to as much learning as possible, as close to home as possible. Community Centres and village halls are ideally suited to deliver such a resource.'

Students were clearly pleased with what they have learned over the last six months, and keen to continue and discussed setting up a local computing club to keep up the technology momentum. There will also be, if numbers allow, a new class for absolute beginners supported by Get IT Together.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Welfare reform and digital skills training through Get IT Together Bristol.

The benefits system is changing. From April 2013 a new Universal Credit will be introduced to replace many current benefits, including Housing Benefit and Job Seeker’s Allowance. The Government wants 80% of applications for Universal Credit to be online by 2017.

Francis Maud, Minister for the Cabinet Office said,
“Central Government where possible must become a Digital Organisation.  These days the best service organisations deliver everything online that can be delivered online. This cuts their costs dramatically and allows access to information and services at times and in ways convenient to the users rather than the providers”

The Department for Work and Pensions though has warned that welfare reform could falter without greater digital inclusion. Mike Shakespeare, from DWP, told a  seminar organised by digital skills body, Digital Unite and others, that digital inclusion work is vital for the government’s flagship welfare reform policy.  He said:

“No matter what other problems we encounter with this benefit, and I think we will encounter one or two, if we can’t get people online it will fall at the first hurdle.”
Helen Milner, chief executive of UK online centres reports that 16 million UK adults are not frequent and competent internet users with 51% of those being over 65.  She went on to state that of the 12 million people affected by Universal Credit its estimated that 6 million people don’t have the skill level to currently interact unaided.

The role for organisations like Get IT Together Bristol is to do something to help those 6 million people.

Our learners sign up for a course in Bristol for a variety of reasons… for communicating with friends and family, pursuing hobbies, from curiosity in what’s going on or of what they might be missing, for playing games or writing letters, for emailing the council and so on.

54% of households without internet access stated that motivation was the main reason they haven’t got connected (they felt they didn’t need a connection) after the reasons of skills and equipment.
So far none of our learners have come with the specific reason of wanting to learn how to access benefits online but I foresee a change in this.

Citizens Online’s aim through digital inclusion is to improve lives. Perhaps we will see some new learners sign up to our courses due to a need rather than a want.  I hope that the knowledge and confidence a learner could gain accessing their benefits online will enable them to reap the other extensive benefits being online can have on someone’s life.

The Get IT Together Bristol Project was set up to tackle the issues of digital exclusion and currently runs 9 computer clubs a week in Bristol.  We offer free courses to anybody over the age of 55 and people with disability and their carers. There are many other providers in Bristol that run courses and training for all sectors of the population.

You can sign up for one of our courses by phoning me on  07785 462 568  or emailing you can also find our course locations, information about the computer reuse scheme and a list of other providers in Bristol on our website.