There is a prelude post to this, outlining how the sessions started.
The classes were, and still (at the time of writing) delivered on a Monday morning from 11-12.30pm, participants aren’t charged for the sessions, although there is an expectation they bring their own device, with a loan tablet or laptop available. Number of participants changed but averaged 5-6 people each session.
As people brought their own device, and no distinction made between devices it was hard to give differentiated learning at times; with only a small amount of confidence in the group, often just convincing people to practice/charge their device beforehand became a ‘squeeze point’ of time in a session and also fed into narratives that people needed direct one to to support before learning anything. It was partially true, but affirming a distinct lesson outline each session ensured that people were learning together and also given a chance to practice. The group had a distinct advantage with each member knowing one another, which is always a wonderful environment in provoking people to talk with one another and learn from their peers. Processes of each topic were broken down and jargon explained. Without assistance the sessions were almost impossible to deliver, as interventions also became squeeze points in time.
What people learned
Aspects of the Internet City course were brought into each session starting with the Cleaning of the device, Checking it was Charged and Online (CCO). Posture was also a constant reminder each session, and with essential use of their device a core activity, with accessibility an ongoing Soulchip priority to ensure people actually had good use and potentially practice. We started with using email and why – sessions needed to be repeated often as regular use for some people was hard to instigate or put into real world use (a circular argument of no use creating less use), but attempts at showing people how to build their contact lists addressed problems with small screens and problems with typing – part of the schema of insoluble problems that were part of the circular argument.
Web browsing was also another regular topic, showing the differences between email and web addresses, and using their web browser (regardless of brand, system and device), it was a great session when we all went to visit Radio Garden and headphones were available for use. Web addresses were also pulled apart to show how an address worked.
Often we talked about useful gadgetry such as stands and screen pens which enhanced and made use more comfortable for many tasks. Notebook use was also encouraged and given structure (also part of the Soulchip best practice), useful for goal framing, noting steps in each goal and to start working out what skills needed to be practiced. Accounts and passwords were an ongoing topic, with the former needing a paper based activity to explain the differences between accounts in banks/utilities and Internet based companies/corporations.
With the spread of different skills, devices and confidence (some participants suffering the onset of dementia), it was very hard to successfully manage and support learners evenly, but with learners willingness to walk before running and overall goodwill to one another, the group dynamic bubbled along with YT’s good humour and patience. Quizzes and stopping points also were inserted occasionally to provide a pause for reflection and to check learning, great for consolidating and confirming learning was actually happening. These stopping points offered a chance to give self assessment, deterring the negative attitudes often held by older learners about learning new skills. It did take some months for the group as a whole to garner a general level of understanding and consistent practice bringing confidence.
What happened afterwards?
As previously mentioned, without assistance the sessions would have been impossible to manage and deliver. At first there was a member of the centre management team helping out, which was problematic for the running of the centre as the person had other work to attend to; nonetheless the good grace and time was gratefully received. When a coordinator for older person’s activities was in post the sessions improved again as support was more focused. The Soulchip practice of enabling staff to start helping by giving some time worked well as the elders coordinator was happy to listen and learn within sessions and in turn provide session support on her own, with only intermittent visits from YT. With such lovely people to work with it was a real pleasure in every sense, a rarity for older people to openly admit their fears about digital use yet be willing to have a go.