My Life as an IT-Buddy Volunteer at CMK Library

I definitely can’t complain that the tasks are not varied enough. My supervisor provides me with a variety of clients. Each learner can have maximum of ten 1 hour sessions; some use them all, others just one for a specific problem.

Then there are the newly acquired laptops or tablets by elderly customers; they mostly want to learn not to be afraid of their purchase and what they can do with the software / Applications that are on it.

Most learners want to improve their PC/Laptop skills; and then there are the tablet/smartphone users who want to know how to change the setup, add or remove an APP and receive emails on the gadget. 

Customers range from total novices to quite experienced users lacking certain knowledge (like how to use styles in a word document). I have to prompt in each case as to what the customer thinks they need to learn and how good their pc-skills are, before I can decide on how to proceed. Some may only want to learn how to use the internet for basic google searches, others can already use the internet to access their emails but don’t know how to tidy up and reply to or forward emails (providers used are Yahoo, Gmail and Microsoft in that order).

Almost everyone has a certain fear of pcs; it’s like going to the seaside in the month of May and not taking your shoes off for a paddle because the water may be too cold, “I will rather not know, than be disappointed” attitude.

That is exactly the attitude “novices” have toward pcs. “I can use it and that’s good enough. Any more and I will be walking on thin ice (I don’t care that the ice is thick – to me – the ice is paper thin) and I don’t really want to go there. In other words I am afraid that my world will tumble down. And then where would I be? Therefore staying where I am is still preferable”.

It is that worry that I am striving to overcome and to induce security and curiosity in my customers to a degree where they feel they can explore the pcs capabilities on their own.

Is ten hours enough? One asks oneself; no not really; but at least I have tried to open the doors and shown that pcs can be used for more than email and Google and hopefully passed on some feeling of confidence while using a pc.

So what type of learners have I helped this year?

  1. I have had an elderly couple where the wife just came along to see what it was all about. It ended up with it being her that was learning and keeping track of their progress. In the beginning she would ask him to do the Google search, 2 lessons later she would do the search and fell quite comfortable doing so. I had successfully found her interest trigger point.
  2. Another one was a young woman from Niobe, yes she spoke somewhat English, she was using Yahoo emails; but what a mess. So I got her onto the pc and she was searching each letter of the alphabet, then I ask if she had a smartphone, which she had. So I asked her to send me a text message to my mobile. It took her 5 seconds to type the message & send it. Then I asked her take a good look at the displayed keyboard and compare it to the big black pc keyboard. Hey presto she spotted the similarity; and then she could type on a pc keyboard. We tidied up her inbox, junk box, and deleted box. Then we played with sending new emails as well as replying to a received one. This led to her contacts … The last topic we talked about was how to use Word to create a CV.
  3. I also had a Chinese gentleman, who hardly spoke English; he wanted to know how to use the internet to order flight and hotels in China. Also he had heard that one could use google maps and zoom in on specific addresses. So we played 2-3 sessions with that. He didn’t need ten sessions.
  4. Then I had a one-off who had just purchased an iPad but didn’t trust himself (unattended) to get it going. That was lovely and easy; I just had to make sure that he had an email account, which he didn’t, so we created a Gmail account; I always ask what email address they want i.e. ‘Yahoo’, ‘Gmail’ or ‘Hotmail’. It’s up to my customers to decide.
  5. I have had 4 people with smartphones all wanting become more capable of using them, like going to settings, setting up free Wi-Fi connection, using the email and Google play-store, install an App and removing unwanted Apps
  6. I had a lovely young(ish) gentleman who got his tablet from the Argos promotion; he didn’t know how to use it although included in the promotion there had been a one hour session; but it was so new to him that the session went straight over his head. So we went through the settings and I recommended a book (that he could borrow from the Library) to tell him more about androids. I showed him how to connect to the library’s free Wi-Fi both on his smartphone and tablet. We used 2-3 sessions on comparing the ins and outs of his smartphone with his tablet. By doing so he realised that there were really not a lot differences in how they worked and how to use them.
  7. Currently one of my customers is a partially sighted 30+ man with his own laptop. He is using MS-Word 2013 but needed more knowledge. I was also asked if we could check his settings of the laptop and word. He writes thesis on living and traveling in space for NASA and other similar institutions. One of his problems was the required way the document had to be constructed. He showed me his last document of approximately 80 pages; he said it took him a week to write but 3 weeks to correct the layout. So I introduced him to “Styles” and created 2-3 styles for him (the styles started with “My” so that they would stay together and were easily findable. He was so excited about the power of the styles that he was going to try to change his document to using those styles.
  8. Another current customer is a woman older than I; but extremely eager to learn how to use her inherited (from her son) smartphone; it’s not a normal high-street brand but it is an android and it does have potential. She comes armed with pencil, pad and her smartphone. In the beginning I said “practice makes perfect” and told her the more she uses the mobile the better, be just for playing with Apps or reading her email – it doesn’t matter it is a matter of using it daily! She always has a long list of questions that we work down. It is great to work with her because I know that what I say or do is noted and digested.