The iceberg of social engagement

Over years of working in various communities around SE London, YT has created what is a ‘model of understanding’  directly working with people. An iceberg only shows a fifth above the water, and so do many people when using a service provided to promote digital skills/inclusion.

Its not all economics.

Money in our western world plays a big part of how we feel comfortable, yet time and again (no matter what your political affilitation) individuals are seeking contentment, quite often labelled ‘happiness’. A smile of a child can melt many a heart, a warm glow can be generated listening to a gospel choir, getting up early to see the sun rise on a spring morning is truly inspiring. The little things make us happy. Money is a tool that can slip through the fingers like water. Mental and physical health (now rebranded wellness) are the factors sitting alongside our relationships giving us meaningful lives. Seeking a purpose is a different story; sometimes experimentation and being bold (great forces will come to your aid so I’ve heard)  create something which can define an elusive goal.

So much for the philosophy, what about the iceberg?

Icebergs always float, like ice cubes in a drink, that is always true right? The iceberg is a really a chunk of ice with so much facing the surface, very much like most people when presenting themselves to any service provided as a civic utility. Wifi and internet access : a big deal when there is a ‘Digital Default’ and civic/public spaces are limited and limiting. 21st century austerity is a governmental/business hammer banging nails without an understanding of an ageing populace, and  (may YT say interesting) lack  of accessibility to essential services.  With so much promised, there is a digital lacking of real world understanding. From the academic to the practical, its an abyss of stereotypes, memes, hashtags and  statistics. Digital innovation in society is overused – little understood in real, pragmatic and inclusive terms. How people actually get on with their personal struggles is not considered; struggles are collateral damage, just a variable/statistic. There is and will continue to be a business case for inclusion and accessiblity.

What is the under the iceberg?

Every single person also carries their burden of family issues. We all are subject to our family upbringing. As a practitioner encouraging emergent reflection for learners to consult/question their motives for a functional digital literacy, YT looks for a suitable mindset, in practice just being supportive and responsive. It can be hard for some people to do for any number of reasons, starting with a lacking of literacy/numeracy. I’m not a therapist, but sometimes offer the right opportunity for growth and independance, sometimes it is also when a learner moves on that the opportunity is realised.

Personality has its place.

The iceberg metaphor holds a structure for the beginnings and endings of a relationship, but personality seems to be the driver or artist in the learning relationship. A formative extended period working in day centres around Greenwich borough created a view of disability in which a person’s innate nature presents itself nonetheless. I’ll give two of my favourite examples of insititutional practice disrupted.

A man from Sierra Leone had both of his hands chopped off when voting for the wrong person, and came to the UK for a new start. Here he realised his educational shortfall, and was eager to use computers in assisting him with his journey. My colleagues more suited to delivering literacy gave tasks to complete via software, each task was tested. Again and again he attempted the lessons and tests, yet he didn’t garner suitable scores to get started with a university course. YT noticed this, and indicated that he now knew the assistive tech he could use (a large keyboard and trackball) and should just apply anyway, he would get support and assistance, especially if shown willing to learn. This gentleman was perpetually upbeat, willing and eager to get on; every reason not to promote a circular path.  A year later he came back to visit me, now enrolled in a foundation course in law. Gave YT the biggest hug that still provokes emotion to this day.

There was another man who also worked with the same set of colleagues yet in a different day centre; a SE London cheeky chap with a learning age of about 10 and neurodiverse. This was coupled with being a wheelchair user needing to be pushed around, he had a personal assistant working with him.  Cheeky, because that was his demeanour quite often, remembering things like little jokes, often smiling and enjoyed interacting with people when he was centre stage. It was apparent he was bored with the digital activities given by my colleagues, humdrum rote acknowledgement of parts of a computer or learning activities with no real goal or product. I’d been researching and putting into place a range of activities in the IT suite we met: colouring in, number games, drawing games, activities with simple focus and easy wins. His favourites (and mine) were the one switch games, especially shooting down WW2 german airplanes. Also pursued was making  a scrapbook, going around the internet printing images to put inside. There was also the option to make a multimedia scrapbook with the adapted Powerpoint presentation too – video and pictures in ‘All about me’. The assistant related his ongoing enthusiasm for his computer sessions, his mood generally more engaged when attending.

If you’re reading this and conclude my attitude towards my colleagues for those times was and still is of a poor quality, then ask why would I go to a website and find resources to facilitate best practice and outcomes for learners? It was a personal and professional response, not an institutional approach; ‘keeping the peace’ and ‘just doing enough’.  This is where my personality presents itself YT supposes.

This does lend itself to ongoing work in promoting inclusion with a multiple format approach and using the social model of  disability as a tool for comparing how things are done and how things should be in our brave new world.

soulchip symbol of consciousness