So this week I was down in Newcastle for a couple of days running a Silver Surfer IT Taster session. This post is about some of things that I and the residents went through to give you a little bit of a flavour of what goes on.
Jen was the first resident I met and she had some problems with her new laptop. She had taken her old laptop to a local computer shop to get the files backed up to an external drive and then moved over to the new one she had bought. Unfortunately the operation wasn't performed very well leaving Jen without most of her data and a lighter purse to boot. Her main worry was that the music she had bought on iTunes was now missing. Thankfully once you re-install iTunes all of your bought music can just be downloaded again. This may sound like a simple thing, but its only simple if you know how to do it. After that we went through and set up a couple more odds and ends to Cliff Richard serenading us.
I then met a man who has a son in Germany that he wanted to be able to Skype. He also had his own laptop so he bought it up to the communal computer where I had ensconced myself. He had previously received help from a relative that had left the interface cluttered with a lot of things that he just didn't want and this really put him off using the computer. The first thing we did was clean up the desktop and stop a bunch of programs from starting when the computer first fires up. We also changed his home page from a plethora of news feeds to google.co.uk. Once we were happy with that we then went through and signed him up to Skype and taught him how to use it. He can now communicate with his family in Germany.
There were a couple of residents with extended family who were surprised at just how easy it was to use Skype to chat. As with most of the people you come across its the perception that what they want to do will be just too complicated combined with a little embarrassment that stops them from trying in the first place. Once they get through the first hurdles though the difference is quite remarkable and they are amazed at just how accessible it can be. It really is a very rewarding experience to help people with something that makes a real difference to their lives. I don't say this to be sanctimonious, I say it to try to get across how much volunteering can help and to encourage people to do it.
I won't go through all of the people I met and the things we did, but I will just round up by going through a couple more examples. We had a lady who really liked QVC and had never touched a computer before. She didn't have any want for email, skype or surfing. She just wanted to be able to go to the QVC site and shop. To make this as simple as possible we just set her home page as QVC and got the browser to start when she logged on. We also added a big red button to the desktop which was a shortcut to the command 'shutdown -l'. This just logs the user off and makes the computer ready for the next person who wants to use it. For a person who had never touched a computer before an hour later she was doing extremely well. She was happily using the keyboard and mouse and could start and shutdown the computer with ease.
A common problem for a lot of people is double-clicking. May sound a little silly, but remember if you are coping with severe arthritis or a number of other conditions it can make the act of clicking twice in quick succession very hard. One thing that helps is to just go to folder options and set everything to open with a single click.
Ok one final example. I met a chap late on the second day who just wanted to know the answers to some questions. He has a very active mind and has questions about all sorts of different subjects that are quite obscure. I introduced him to Google! He especially now likes Wikipedia and spent a good hour looking for facts about tanks, warships and WWII aircraft. I have couple of pictures from the day as well if you are interested: