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, this 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 teaching. At Lewisham college, I was 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.
As a person just starting out in teaching these were great challenges, willing to engage and take creative avenues. This attitude prompted my management to ask me in providing 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 as much time I could give them with the poor software at hand. The course gave some valuable lessons about working with cognitive and physical disability. I was course tutor for 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…
In 2003, 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, I delivered a fun powerpoint course for parents of the Millennium primary school to get them using a computer – this then led me to applying to work for Greenwich Online, a UK Online project overseen by Greenwich council. Initially working in a ICT suite at the Forum, over the course of my 7 years working in most of the community and day centres in the borough, giving me 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 my 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 no 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. I had started out in teaching alongside being a web designer (my last website I built in 2004), and had taught myself how to build a simple radio station in PHP. Now my skills were not enough in the market place.I start looking at using WordPress instead, and creating some basic blog sites for artists.
I also became a proud associate of UcandoIT as a visiting tutor in 2011, 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 take me on the course. It was truly a positive and inspirational way to meet some amazing people, which is not a pitch 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 giving some 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?