Supporting parents with digital skills!
In partnership with ClearCommunityWeb, we delivered 2 rounds of digital skills sessions at Henry Fawcett Children’s Centre in earlier this year.
We have worked closely with both organisations to help people in our community overcome digital exclusion, but we recognised that more was need to support families.
A key focus of the children's centres is supporting families to have fair and equal access to services and opportunities, helping to break cycles of deprivation and to secure positive longer term outcomes. Lack of access to digital devices impacts all aspects of family life; managing finances, employment, education, healthcare and more and simple day-to-day tasks are instantly more challenging without access to a device and regular, reliable connectivity to the internet. These families are facing a great number of obstacles related to these challenges, which places them at a huge disadvantage. When holding parent forums, parents were asking for digital skills training and how to keep children safe online.
Parents recognise that with increased confidence, skills and access to digital devices, their ability to keep their children safe and access and benefit from opportunities will be increased tenfold for them, and therefore for their children.
Each session was designed to support participants with the tools to develop digital skills and the confidence to continue independently afterward. Every participant was given a refurbished laptop for them to use during the sessions and to take away once they had completed the short course. These laptops were prepared by our volunteers, who replaced batteries, fixed screens and ensured that they were ready to use straight away!
Participants were encouraged to sign up to either ‘Online Safety’ or ‘Microsoft Skills’, with the first session focusing on getting started with the laptop, and becoming familiar with its settings. Each participant took part in 2 sessions, however there were several who attended both. As a pilot we wanted to understand what subjects were most useful and so surveyed parents beforehand. It's really important to us that the workshops were driven by need and not assumption.
“The Dell laptop is a fantastic size and very easy to use! Thank you so much”
By providing refurbished laptops, we managed to reuse 94 kg of potential e-waste, preventing it from ending up in landfill.
Working with existing equipment is vital to our work at Community TechAid. Producing new tech mines precious resources and can have a devastating impact on the lands and communities they come from. This project avoided 2336 kg CO2 equivalents by working with second-hand equipment.
The first session that participants attended, focused on an overview of the laptop.
The groups had different levels of experience; some use a computer regularly in a library setting and others had never opened a laptop before.
Having an initial getting started session helps to overcome barriers that some users may feel embarrassed about approaching, particularly in a mixed level setting. It also helps to reinforce existing skills, improving ability and confidence.
Together, they learnt to change settings and understand tools including battery and accessibility.
“Being able to access forms in larger prints and see all the details on a site without missing out is so much easier! I can access online banking easily and more securely.”
- Anonymous participant
All of the participants have young families, and so online safety can be an overwhelming concern, particularly for new users:
“I’ve been able to create accounts for my kids to use and to monitor their use.”
- Anonymous participant
All those who took part are now able to access tools and services they couldn’t before. When asked how the device had changed their day to day life, all commented on how they would use it to support their children with tasks like
homework. Over half spoke about how they would use it to create and write word documents for job applications and homework. Software like LibreOffice, which is free, does not require an internet connection, and so documents can be written and edited anywhere.
“I can now create and edit documents at home which will help with work and day to day life. It also means I will use my phone less to carry out certain activities helping to preserve battery and potentially reduce screen-time.”
Online safety is another concern for many young parents, particularly as many feel that their children are more advanced online users. The ‘Online Safety’ sessions focused on securing accounts and understanding why passwords are important. For many, it helped them to understand their role in keeping their children safe when using the laptop and developing the confidence to have conversations with other family members about online safety.
“I'm much more aware of my role with security of the device. Will be changing my passwords!”
- Anonymous participant
93% feel more knowledgeable about using their laptop and going online as a result of the training . All agreed that their life is easier as a result of having their own laptop with and report feeling more socially included as a result of their engagement with the project.
We know collaboration is key to empowering individuals online and that with the tools and opportunities we can help to overcome barriers that many in our community face.
“Thank you for providing such a phenomenal service to the community. We appreciate your hard work and support. You are all FANTASTIC!!!
With thanks to our funders and partners L&Q, Lambeth Housing, Lambeth Council, ClearCommunityWeb and Better Start North Lambeth Children's Centre.