Bridging the IT Adult Literacy Gap


As a volunteer for Citizens Online, and like other volunteers I lead quite a busy life. If I’m going to volunteer there has to be benefits like being close to home for dropping off and collecting kids from school (with a bit of exercise in between of course).

Citizens Online is a charity funded by BT Get IT Together and trains volunteers to go out in the community and help adults learn new IT skills. It’s all about digital inclusion and bridging the adult IT literacy gap.

IT learners
IT learners

It’s totally understandable, because let’s face it, if you’ve survived without using a computer for this long, why should you learn about it now? In fact there are lots of positives for an ageing population to access the internet and learn new skills. For instance; staying in touch with family overseas via Skype or Face Time link ups? Or Genealogy sites looking up your family tree with a grandchild for their school project? Ordering things online for ease of access – the list goes on.

So, when I asked citizens online co-coordinator Vic Berry if there were any more classes closer to home and he said there wasn’t, I decided to find some new venues in the area of Holbeck.

I approached Jenny and Elissa at Holbeck Elderly Aid one day in December last year and asked if they put their PC’s to good use. They did have a small group that ran each week but nothing with any learning structure. I explained that at no cost they could have me run a basic IT class for them each week, and by joining charities we could share resources and skills for the community.

Like most classes out there, you’re never too old to learn. Getting people together in a new environment and opening new possibilities is what both of these charities aspire towards. Learning how to use the internet is a motivating tool to channel interests thereby making learning fun.

The group was a success with four members attending every week over the six week sessions.

Pat and Babs 1As this was a group with a limited skill set we started by learning the basics; like turning on a computer, using a mouse, getting to know your way around the keyboard. Once this was done we then went onto the internet and learnt how to navigate search engines, scroll down a page (this does actually take a lot of skill). We were soon sending emails back and forth to each other, completing online applications, registering on Skype and even tweeting!

Everyone in the group had learnt new skills. It had helped them improve their confidence in using the internet, and most said they would happily go into a library and use a public computer now. Also, by meeting new learners everyone had developed new friendships, by socialising and offering peer support.

The group has been successful and Holbeck Eldery Aid are hoping to continue this each week on Wednesday mornings. If you are interested and would like to find out more about accessing the group or if you would like to be a volunteer, please contact Jenny at HEA or Vic Berry Citizens Online

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