The IT Classes Project run by Northumbria Students Union volunteers in conjunction with the Elders Council is now into its seventh year. Student volunteers assist older people who may not feel confident using devices, such as computers, iPads and mobile phones to improve their skills. Sessions run fortnightly during term-time and rely on a team of dedicated student volunteers to deliver this personalised service.
• 2013/14: Northumbria Student Union ‘Best New Project Award’ and runner up to ‘Best Overall Project’.
• April 2014: Go On UK Digital Skills ‘I made a difference’ award in the ‘Innovative Partnership’ category. (These awards are the region’s principal way of recognising people/organisations that have gone that extra mile to get the North East digitally connected). Click here to see video.
• 2014: Northumbria Student Union ‘Project of the Year’ award.
• December 2014: Truth about Youth, PoSBO Intergenerational Award
• June 2015: Digital Leaders Top 100 List – reaching an impressive 41st place for ‘Best Digital Inclusion Project or Service’. These awards honour the top 100 achievements from across the UK and celebrate individuals/ organisations who are making a real difference. Hundreds of nominations were received, so to come in the top 50 was an enormous achievement. Competition included Councils, government departments, and corporate organisations such as BT, Lloyds and Talk Talk.
• December 2015: Runner up for Truth about Youth, PoSBO Intergenerational Award.
The students are aware that some older people don’t want to learn in a lecture-based class, and that’s why they do it in one-to-one sessions, allowing the older person to go at their own pace whilst not feeling rushed or stressed.
The learning has boosted confidence and sociability for everyone involved and has created new relationships between generations. It is a two-way learning process – the older people are learning new skills from the students, whilst the students are gaining experience, not only in teaching, but in relation to interpersonal skills. This project has definitely broken down barriers between the generations. The project is an innovative intergenerational teaching and learning model that could easily be implemented in other places to combat the digital divide.
Elders Council members have found the classes invaluable. Classes are very informal with no set structure and tuition is tailor made to suit the learner!
Carole Suchak who was a regular attender said:
“It is not every day where the young are able to demonstrate that they have so much more skill, experience and expertise than those of a ‘certain’ age. However, this scenario exists at Northumbria University IT Suite between the hours of one and three on Wednesday afternoons.
“Many students give up their valuable time to help older people acquire IT skills. The tuition is on a one-to-one basis. I have been going for four weeks and my self-esteem has been greatly advanced because I am much more computer literate than I was. I now have a Skype account; am familiar with ‘clip art’; have a greater understanding of Word and I have a Facebook account.
“The tuition is tailor-made to suit the learner (thank goodness we do not have to pay for it!). Commitment to the class does not have to be each and every week; anyone may dip in and out as they wish. The students have demonstrated infinite patience with me and with others. They are kind and it is a real pleasure to learn from their expertise.
“I can only encourage you to come along and give these classes a try. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.”
For furher information about sessions please call the Elders Council office on 0191 208 2701.
Getting into the festive spirit has not stopped us from also looking at the serious matter of Newcastle City Council's Budget. Members of the Elders Council joined the Youth Council in attempting the Budget Simulation. After 2 hours of debate, we very reluctantly reached a balanced budget, but only by cutting back on services which we all regarded as essential. Members of the Elders Council Board met with Council officers to discuss the budget proposals and will be preparing a formal response which will be on our website soon..