This time last week I was invited along to a free Digital Drop In service run by Post Office Broadband in partnership with Google. These sessions have been organised around the country to help boost digital confidence. These sessions are run 1-1 and any and every question can be answered, from how to delete emails on mass to how to use WhatsApp.
As a mum who spends a lot of her life online, I couldn’t wait to find out what questions would pop up. I thought I knew a lot about the online world but it turns out I know a smidgen of what’s out there and what can be done.
The Digital Drop In was held in Southampton’s Central Library in the middle of the city. It’s a beautiful location anyway, but it’s the library itself that blows me away every time. It’s like a labyrinth of books with cozy cubby holes to sit and read.
We were given two rooms to use upstairs in the library, were people could voice their concerns in a safe way without a crowd.
The session ran for three hours and people dropped in to find out more about the sessions and to get advice.
I think what became apparent quite quickly was that regardless of age, we all need a bit more digital confidence. I may be a child of technology but even I feel left behind at times, especially when my three-year-old grabs the IPad and shows me what to do on YouTube. My mind is blown how she can use it in such an easy way.
One of the first ladies I met wanted to find out about What’s App and how to use add her contacts. All her friends used it as it was free but she didn’t know how to reply or start a new message. Myself and a Google Expert showed her how to do all these things and how she can group people together. We even reminded her that she can make calls for free using it, which really excited her, as she has a family member in Canada that she only emails.
Just this small bit of knowledge now means that she can get in contact with her loves ones easily and for free. To me, this is why the internet was made and is amazing that it can change someone’s life like that!
I helped another lady who had multiple devices for difference activities. She had a phone to make calls, a phone for emails and pictures, a tablet for games, an IPod for music and a laptop to type.
We showed her that she can use one device for everything and how easy it is to do. She also commented that she “doesn’t trust the internet” but is finding it harder and harder to not go online as everything has become automated.
For this lady the session allowed her to experience the internet in a positive way and showed her how being online could make her life a little easier. I know she really appreciated the opportunity it gave her, as she felt bad having to keep asking her son for advice.
We had another lady that came to the session to ask about pop-ups. She found the internet daunting and didn’t know what to press to get rid of them. It became a great group discussion at one stage, with us all agreeing that at one stage or another, we’ve all been unsure what to press to get rid of them. It opened my eyes up to the fact that this is a really common problem and one that can be easily fixed with a bit more digital confidence and knowledge of what to look out for.
I hadn’t realised until nearer the end of the session that I was actually helping people too. That even though I have self-taught knowledge of the online world, I do actually have skills that I can pass on and that gave me more confidence too!
What shocked me was the amount that I learnt as well. One attendee had a Gmail account with over four thousand emails and was deleting them one by one. We showed her how to group them so she can mass delete (something I didn’t know and now use all the time) and how she can set up different partitions for her emails like promotions, SPAM and Primary so she can find her emails quickly.
This may not seem like world changing advice, but it really gave the attendees more confidence to use the internet and the devices they had. None of the Google experts used jargon. Everything was taken at a pace that everyone was happy with and sitting down 1 to 1 really seem to give everyone the confidence they needed. To say we all learnt something last week would be an understatement!
Every question asked was so different and the Google experts took it all in their stride. What I found the most interesting was that a few attendees just came to play with a IPad for the first time or to learn how to set up an email account. It showed me that this big can of internet worms and rush to have so much technology in our lives comes at a cost, and that we all need to share our knowledge to make sure that no one is left behind.
I came away from the sessions not only feeling proud that I’d managed to help a little but that also some of the advice given was really going to help change people’s lives and make things a bit easier.
Before a few weeks ago I didn’t even know drop-ins like this were available and that they are completely free!
Post Office Broadband and Google have a few more sessions across the UK and are hoping to launch more soon.
If you feel like you need a bit of help getting to grips with the technology in your life or the internet, then please do try and make a session. I can hand on heart promise that everyone is very friendly and that there is ZERO judgement and you will come away feeling more confident about what you’re doing online.
The next sessions are:
Plymouth – Fri 20th July, 10am to 1pm
Cardiff – Fri 3rd August, 10am to 1pm
Norwich – Fri 17th August,10am to 1pm
Belfast – Fri 31st August, time TBC
You can find out more over on the Digital Drop In website.