Back in April 2017 an email came into the community which introduced the Digital Participation Charter Fund. At that time we only had one computer available for use by residents and day students, and although we offered a range of workshops they were largely paper based with little use of digital at all. Seeing that this could be an amazing opportunity for our community to explore how to bring digital into our world we set about developing our project idea, pulled our application together and were delighted when we were successful.
The funding from SCVO gave us the opportunity to buy computers and iPads to set up a learning zone suite within our community. Although it took longer than expected to furnish and equip the room, by mid-February 2018 we were finally up and running. Aside from opening the learning suite, one of our first key project successes was linking in with SCVO’s One Digital team to register for Digital Champion training. As well as opening our new learning zone to our staff and board members to help them understand the benefits of digital, we were delighted to be able to train 12 Digital Champions within our community.
Our most active, Gyongyi, has set up several groups where the participants combine traditional crafts and digital for a variety of graphic design projects. We have found this approach to be the most effective way to engage people and support them to develop their digital skills. One day student, Ryan, has been supported by Gyongyi to produce an easy-read diary sheet using pictures and graphics to make this more accessible for service users with communication difficulties. This has helped Ryan develop and enhance his foundation digital skills including how to: log-in to the computer using a password; use a keyboard including shortcuts; save and find files; connect a device to the internet; and create word documents.
As a direct result of his time with Gyongyi, Ryan has gained in self-esteem and confidence, and now has the skills to use the internet safely to find images and graphics, edit pictures, work with templates and produce documents. Prior to this he mainly used technology to play games and look at videos on You-Tube.
He said: “At home I play games on my X-box but I don’t have a computer. I have been learning new things to do on the computer using the Visualeyez software. It’s fun to do the picture diary sheet and I feel good helping other students and residents. I type the words into Google and choose the pictures that I like and think other people will understand. Gyongyi has shown me how to change the colours of the fonts and some shortcuts on the keyboard. We work hard in Visualeyez but I enjoy being part of the group. When we finish the work, we use the iPads to play games and listen to music.”
Throughout the project we have had great support from SCVO’s Digital Team and found the various events we attended to date extremely useful. Hearing about other organisations’ experiences helps introduce new possibilities for the use of technology to enhance quality of life for everyone in our community. For example, one event prompted us to use Slack to communicate with our young volunteers which has made communication much easier and quicker.
For us digital inclusion has always been about finding the ‘hook’ to get people interested. We have found that residents and day students are not so interested in attending dedicated IT lessons but are happy to use and learn new digital skills when working on projects or involved in activities they enjoy. Understanding how to embed digital in our workshops has been hugely beneficial and we are looking forward to developing our learning further.