One of my first ideas in teaching was to use a small web server on a machine in an IT lab to make a class diary, which would now be considered a blog. It worked for some of the young people on the course when asked them to recap their week, others weren’t very happy at broadcasting their lacking in literacy – this exercise was not for everyone, which is a real lesson to learn when starting out in teaching. Meanwhile at Lewisham college, asked to be the course tutor for the ICPD ( Introduction to Computers for People with Disabilities) in addition to teaching the 16-19 year olds that were doing a literacy/numeracy course disguised as an IT qualification.
These were great challenges, attempting engagement and to take creative avenues. This approach prompted my management (at Lewisham) to offer a project as an incentive for the young people to use their college email and their machines to help focus them on their goals; after all they were there because they had not done well at school. In response, created an online competition with scoring and prizes as achievements. Not great prizes, but they got to go to the cinema if they win as a class. The individual with the highest score won a HMV voucher. It worked, it really did, but it did mean that my colleagues had to send me the scores for each class and I had to do extra administration. The people with disabilities had my full support, good humour and time to compensate for the poor software at hand. Real lessons were learned about working with cognitive and physical disability. My tenure as course tutor was the last year at the college before physically disabled students were included into general ICT classes, which is a mixed blessing.
Working in East Greenwich, and then Greenwich Online showed up…
2003 came around, was asked to assist with an outreach project for the Forum@Greenwich, a centre which had digital inclusion as part of its remit. As a result, delivered a fun powerpoint course for parents of the Millennium primary school to get them using a computer – this then led to applying to work for Greenwich Online, a UK Online project overseen by Greenwich council. Starting out in the ICT suite at the Forum@Greenwich, over the course of 7 years delivered ICT assistance as a centre coordinator in most of the community and day centres in the borough, giving myself a real insight into community engagement and developing services.
My favourite part of the job was trying to improve the service without any budget other than time. One notable occasion was making a series of fun and engaging activities for users of a complex needs day centre while keeping the machines accessible as possible – all with free software and a helpful network engineer. In 2007/8, ran a pilot project to get a block of flats in Charlton connected, which was extremely tough with little funding, but had interesting outcomes in terms of finding why and how people engage online – my research into smart metering for homes and video conferencing for the elderly was quite prescient I like to think.
Freelancing, and attempting #socent.
The UK Online funding became a trickle, and most of my team including myself were made redundant in 2010-11. Starting out in teaching alongside being a web designer (the last website I built in 2004), the last big project was to build a simple radio station in PHP/MYSQL. Now my skills were not enough in the market place, and started looking at using WordPress instead, creating some basic blog sites for artists.
As a freelancing trainer/tutor, became a proud associate of UcandoIT as a visiting tutor in 2011. The work involved meeting all sorts of extraordinary people managing their physical disabilities and assisting them to get online and own their digital device.
2014 was a good year: decided to apply for a fellowship at the School of Social Entrepeneurs, and they like me enough to offer a fellowship. It was truly a positive and inspirational way to meet some amazing people, which is not a statement I would write with a good conscience unless it was true.
My professional and personal development has benefited from being an SSE fellow, and even though the project that was presented to them didn’t quite happen, another one has developed, called Caring Digital. This project is more about involving other social and health care workers in the use of digital platforms and gadgets.
In 2015, the idea started with a weekly visit to a day centre in Deptford where many of the users were in the onset of dementia. The carers were lovely people, there was wifi…but only one iPad and a Nintendo Wii. It did turn out that after providing training to the carers they did understand more about using the iPad for someone else (as everyone learns to do what they need, right?) and the activity coordinator had moved from completely scared to just careful. Two lovely ladies had been the focus of the sessions, and out of this came extra benefits in creativity and an opportunity for reminiscing – did I mention I use a lot of audio in my work? Very useful as reminders and a reference.