Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Cornish learner shares her adventures into the world of the internet

Recently trying to make contact with an old friend from hockey playing teenage years, whose phone calls and Christmas cards had dried up, a neighbour suggested looking her up on the computer.

Having her proper name and latest address, I tapped them into Google and to my amazement up came an obituary notice in the Evening Herald.
Some Cornish Times readers will recall Kate, as her father Canon Jack Parsons was a popular vicar of St Martin’s back in the 1950s.

Having played cricket for Warwickshire in his youth he was friendly with the then Bishop of Truro, Joey Hunkin, and thought it his duty to spend time every Thursday morning in the cattle market where he was considered ‘a proper chap’ and I suppose acted as unofficial chaplain for the countryside.
Some will remember he had much publicity for turning his army sword into a ploughshare and I fancy he went to Bolitho farm and John Moon taught him to plough a furrow.

Always carrying a rucksack on his back he bought fresh vegetables from the growers in the market and probably checked with butcher Dennis to know whose bullock he was buying that day for the evening rib of beef he would later be buying.  Traceability of the highest order and a proper spoken relationship between producer, middle man and consumer – no bureaucracy or reams of paperwork for DEFRA and Health and Safety and Liskeard had prestige as a market town where livestock was sold and bought, and town and country met to mutual benefit.
Times change and several days into this darkest of winters were spent in good company in the church rooms where Sheri Sturgess had organised a wonderful course for elderly computer users who needed help.

Some had no machine at home and needed introduction, other brought laptops but had no idea about potential use, and books written on the subject are written by high-tech experts in their own peculiar language.
Being completely computer illiterate, having done farm accounts when pen and paper sufficed and having no desire to do business with a machine, I had a sudden hunger to find the mass of information available on Google, so bought myself an iPad.

These mobile tablets are the future as they can be used in the armchair, in bed or taken on holiday. Used as a camera, would you believe it you can turn your landscape into a jigsaw puzzle of as many pieces as you like and amuse yourself with that, send emails to friends and grandchildren and many of my Apps concern the racing industry.
David Hockney, the famous artist, uses his to create eye-wateringly expensive artwork and I do art hesitantly, and that’s the great thing about the church classes. When we get stuck or don’t have an eight-year-old in the house, the tutor from Citizens Online called Jay Chapman, was a saint. Helpful, interested, patient and encouraging, he was a master of his job. And with a grant from BT to the church to get broadband for a year thought is that it may be possible to start a drop-in cafe for those of us who forget what to do next or need advice.

If you are in this situation just contact the church office or Sheri Sturgess and if you are able, email sheri.sturgess@googlemail.com

Another gem of information while on this subject – a friend told me that her daughter has just produced a book, I had sight of it and promptly ordered a copy from mum.
Written by Angela McConnel it is called Grandma got an iPad, published by Happy Lappy of Lulworth.

Citizens Online was thrilled to receive a newspaper clipping from Bridget Best, writing for The Cornish Times. We would like to thank Bridget for this wonderful article and for allowing us to share it.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Managing Volunteers in RCT

Ryan Bevan, our Get IT Together Project Co-ordinator is training 35 young volunteers to help deliver digital inclusion in RCT. Working with volunteers presents a variety of challenges, and the additional element of introducing younger volunteers introduces another range of issues including recruitment, training and management. Ryan has built in additional training and support for these young volunteers and encourages shadowing and mentoring to enable them to become confident enough to deliver sessions.

Ryan has found that after registering an initial interest in volunteers and undergoing training, some were not reliable and were not committing to the delivery sessions as they had agreed. To overcome this, he now holds a volunteer briefing each week. This allows new volunteers to find out about the project and the benefits of being involved. Volunteers then get to shadow Ryan or an experienced volunteer before committing to the project. This enables volunteers to make better choices and Ryan to ensure his delivery team are reliable and committed.

Ryan’s link with the Jobcentre Plus has been a positive partnership for his project. The Jobcentre are signposting both volunteers and learners to Ryan. He is making the most of this, by running regular sessions 2 days each week for learners and holding training sessions for new volunteers.

Ryan has had a steady stream of volunteers for his project, and the local college has offered Welsh Bacc students as well. However, the timetabling and restrictions that the college operate under, means that Ryan has had to wait to the start of term to co-ordinate dates that suit both students and his learners.

One of the early successes for the project is a volunteer finding employment. Ashley had completed the training with Ryan and had helped out at several sessions, whilst applying for jobs. He’s now been offered a job and has started working. Part of the project’s aims is to help improve employability skills for young volunteers and helping a volunteer into employment is a great achievement.

As knowledge of the project spreads, Ryan is being contacted by libraries, sheltered housing schemes and other community organisations to arrange training sessions. He plans to use his volunteers to take over session delivery so he can continue to build more partnerships. One of the newer partnerships Ryan is going to work with is Communities First. They are agreeing their cluster delivery plans at the moment and Ryan is linking in to their over 50s basic IT sessions.

Ryan works closely with the other Get IT Together projects across Wales and as part of a joint Adult Learners Week campaign, he is running IT drop in sessions in Tonyrefail this week. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013


Today has been a wonderful day. One of those kind of inspiring, 'aaah, so this is what life's for' kind of days. A brilliant day.
It didn't start well. It was raining. I had to clean out the car before I left (eeeeurgh) and somehow I seemed to have an incomprehensible amount of cabling to take with me. Though that's an ongoing issue. A personal battle, if you will.
Anyway... Today I was asked to be part of a Creative Writing Conference, as part of Adult Learning week, by our enthusiastic Adult Learning Coordinator. My job was to enthuse folk about the world of blogging as a means of providing a public, creative space, where folk will actually read your work. As a platform for budding writers to share their stories, poems or Dr. Who passions.

In a room of 25, only one person had ever read a blog, never mind thought of writing one themselves. We rushed through a myriad hotpotch of blogs I follow- from Eurovision to crofting, from Dr Who to Colonel Hadfield- as I tried to explain it's passion and commitment that drives a blog forward. That you write about something you care about. We looked at blogging (not quite mainstream) writers, such as Caroline von Schmalensee to Anna Punch.
I talked, passionately, about the Internet as a force for good. As an exciting thing to be part of, as somewhere you can find folk who share your interests. And where you can write, write, write- and be read.

And then we came to microblogging, and to Twitter in particular. I distributed, in beautiful, colour-printed paper form, the latest offerings from the Guardian Twitter Fiction collection, where established authors have been asked to write a short story in 140 characters or less. I talked about Twitter as a public forum, a connecting space- and tasked our creative bunch, each one, to write their own Twitter Fiction.

I can't tell you how amazed and excited I was by their work.
As the day progressed, we indulged in all manners of other creative writing - screenwriting with highly acclaimed local actors (*cough*), poetry writing and a group song. It was brilliant. We had cake. There was a lot of laughing.

But, selfishly, my absolutely favourite bit of the day was being able to publish some fantastic pieces of writing by hitherto unpublished, wonderful folk.
Here they are. All anonymous. These tweets are why my day was wonderful.

Empty throne, alone, ruined dress,
Forgotten damsel, delightful distress.
There is no armoured angel, I am no princess
Went to the Learning Centre. Thought it was a different course. I'm the only guy looking for the emergency exit. #twitterfiction

I've escaped, alone at last, driving past fields of lambs and calves. I am off to hit the shops. #twitterfiction #adultlearningweek
I'm too young to die!I'll get the money another way. She leapt,the parachute opened& raised £243 towards research into her mum's illness.
Boy sat in the window waiting for dad. He did not arrive. A solider came &said he would never come &gave him the present he was waiting for.
She said he was her first guest. He said he was the only one. It wasn't a bottle of wine he was hiding behind his back. #twitterfiction

She looked at the birds on the birdtable. This is what my wife is- cold unemotional and hard #twitterfiction #adultlearningweek

Saw purse, trashed old dear, pinched it, scarpered. Purse was empty, he put a fiver in it, knocked on lady's door. Sorry, he said.

They loved him, not me.They walked away.I was alone. I smiled.Tiny feet running back.His toast finished. My turn now. Oh, it's a dog's love.

toss& turn
lie awake
turn& look at clock
pull back duvet
out of bed
pull back curtains
raining again
never get 2 days the same

Young mother could not remember where she put her baby. Had to wait for the baby to cry so she knew where she put it, like a mobile phone
3 menopausal women in a motorhome? Perhaps it was a mistake but they were having so much fun. Martin really was going to have to die (M.Jay)
Esmerelda smiled. She had no idea the rock was a pirate ship. #twitterfiction

Intergenerational Connections Created in Maghery Community Hall using IPADS

Carla Lockhart, the Council Mayor and Margarita O Donnell, from Loughshore Access Project, presented seven members of Maghery Diamond Club with certificates for participating in a free IPAD for beginners course and twelve members from Maghery youth club for their invaluable contribution throughout the six weeks. Relationships were really strengthened throughout this intergenerational project and great fun and laughter was had by all.

This course was facilitated through BT Connected Communities as part of the Get IT Together programme, in partnership with the UK charity, Citizens Online.  They are investing resources to help increase public access to the internet through providing fun informal computer sessions to help build confidence and skills for new users and job seekers. In Northern Ireland we have a fantastic fibre broadband infrastructure and we want to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from that. 

Maghery Community Hall had won a BT Community Connections award, providing free broadband to the Centre for a year.  Maghery Diamond Club has benefited from this service and taken part in a FREE introductory IPAD course.  This course was organised in conjunction with Loughshore Access Project, which is a health and well-being initiative, run by South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association. 

Members of the local youth group helped older members of the Diamond Club discover some of the benefits of being online using their ipads and downloading apps.

The Club would like to thank Anita Kelly, Project Coordinator for Citizens Online in N Ireland, for creating a relaxed learning environment throughout the course, to the young people who came along every week to help, to the SHSCT for funding the ipads, and the Community Hall for the use of their training facilities and internet, all of which has made this course possible. 

Anne Fox, participant said:

“We’ve learned so much more about the opportunities existing for us by being connected to the internet and the various apps we can download to help us keep in contact with each other, increasing our health and social well being and reducing social and rural isolation.”

Members were able to carry out various health checks through downloading apps eg to check their blood pressure and stress levels.

They were able to search for information about their favourite hobbies eg sport and tv programmes, reserve and download e-books, check the weather forecast and latest news headlines, communicate with friends and family through sending e-mails and face time, save money on bills using comparison websites and get easy access to local services eg Council, Translink, Money Advice Service.  They also learned how to use google maps and download crosswords and word searches.  Both the young and young at heart had great fun taking and editing photos, playing 4 in a row, solitaire, watching funny youtube videos and new connections were made, both with each other and online.

Francis Fee, participant said: “This course was very enjoyable and I learned so much more than I thought I ever could – I’d recommend everyone to get online, as there’s something to suit everyone’s interests.  The young people were very helpful and showed us how to set up emails and download different apps.”

The Group are also participating in Citizens Online research study, to help understand more about the way people use the internet.  They will be contacted over a two year period to ask them about their internet usage, at 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after they’ve complete the training.  The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. The results will be used to measure the success of the training and provide a better understanding of the way people use the internet and the barriers preventing it’s use.

Citizens Online have trained local volunteers to help take people through the basics and get them online and /or increase employment opportunities through online job searches, applications and uploading CV’s to recruitment agencies etc.  Free six week informal introductory courses are being run in a number of Community Venues across the West at various times, tailored to suit the needs of local participants and increase their computer confidence.

BT Connected Communities are currently based in the Gasyard, Caw, Maydown and Draperstown in Co Derry~Londonderry; Pomeroy and Augher in Co Tyrone; and Enniskillen, Ederney and Irvinestown in Co Fermanagh.

If you know how to use a computer, ipad or tablet and would like to help others realise the benefits of being online, please contact Anita to find out how and where you can volunteer and the dates/venues of the next training sessions.  This time can contribute towards the Millennium Volunteers Award for people under 30 years old and will also be a good edition to your CV.  For others, it’s a great way of using your skills to help others and meet new people, making a real difference to their lives.

If you or your group would like to learn more about how the project could benefit you, want to help others get online or find out about our Research study, please feel free to contact your local Connected Community Centre or Anita Kelly, Project Co ordinator, T: 078 1857 3617 or email: anita.kelly@citizensonline.org.uk

If you are already online, please follow us on twitter:@GetITTogetherNI or
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CitizensOnlineNI?ref=hl  or visit our websites www.citizensonline.org.uk  www.btconnectedcommunities.com

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Guest Blogger Alert! Money Advice, Digital Inclusion and Pink Boots

The following post was penned by the acers Kim Tewnion - a new member of our digital inclusion team in the far north, and a highly experienced money advice worker. She also has cool boots.

Excited as I am to be working with Irene and the Get IT together project, it has taken me about eight weeks to pull this single guest post together, and so I think the blogosphere is safe from my musings for now. I might have considered keeping a Vlog, if the word wasn’t so ugly, but as this is to be my contribution to the internet for 2013, please excuse the indulgent length of this post.

My involvement in the digital inclusion project is driven by my day job as a Money Adviser. Employed by the Citizens Advice Bureau, I am specifically tasked with empowering people to‘make the most of their money.’ In my role I spend time with clients of all ages and backgrounds, helping them make decisions about their finances – be that where they can cut their budget, highlighting ways of increasing income, talking about issues around borrowing money, investing or pensions. Through these meetings I have seen just the extent to which those who are not online are missing out. You cannot make the most of your money without getting digital.

Yearly trawls around comparison websites for cheaper insurance, breakdown cover or phone packages are not the most exciting aspects of modern life. But, when I see the higher insurance costs -for instance - shouldered by clients who have been unable to use these online tools, it’s clear those 15 minutes were well spent. This is just one example of where the digitally excluded are losing out financially. Cutting shopping costs, reducing the costs of utility bills, the higher return on internet savings accounts and accessing expert advice at the click of a button from websites like the Money Advice Service or Money Saving Expert are just some of the reasons that I am pushing my clients towards getting online.

Unfortunately, it is not just the increased opportunities to cut household bills that brought us into partnership with Get IT together. In the last three months we have seen an increase in the amount of people receiving sanctions on their Jobseekers Allowance payments. In the most part these have been because clients have failed to undertake actions outlined in their job seeking plan. Tasks such as checking named job search websites, or applying for certain positions on the government’s shiny new Universal Jobsmatch.

Some of these clients have only £57 per week to live on. Once they have paid for food, heating, water and the essential travel expenses incurred when attending interviews, there is not enough left for a phone line and broadband package, even if they already own a computer or smartphone (and most don’t.) Thus they must find a friend or family member to help them get online, or use a computer at the local library. For someone who is not familiar with the internet, this is often too little computer time to get them up to the stage where they can complete the specific tasks outlined in their jobseekers agreement. Sanctions occur; up to three years of benefit can be sanctioned for repeated failures.

Compounding this misery, many people who have been sick for a long time are being found ‘fit to work,’ via the controversial Work Capability Assessment that guards access to sickness benefits. These clients have not been in the labour market for years, and many will never even have used a computer, yet if they don’t get up to speed with how to set up an email account, create a digital CV, master web browsers, search engines, menus and hyperlinks, they shall find themselves in complete hardship before long. All this before we even get to the ‘digital by default’ Universal Credit that asks for all claimants to make online claims by October of this year.

The partnership between CAB and Get IT Together is so important, for some of our vulnerable clients it will make the difference between them being able to eat and heat their homes, or them not being able to do so. We are grateful for the resources, funding and support that Get IT together is providing to enable us to start digitally including our clients, and for Irene’s enthusiasm driving this partnership – without which we would be unable to provide the practical help that our clients need. And, although the motivation for many of our client group to get online will be the big threatening stick of absolute poverty, I hope that I can coax them with some carrots too. Like reading the newspaper for free online, looking up long lost school friends on Facebook, getting that hard-to-find item on eBay and Googling your medical symptoms so you can tell your GP exactly what’s wrong with you. (I know that medical professionals especially like the last one.)