At the start of Go ON Sheffield week, I was intending to give an hour to show people how to get online, but I’ve ended up giving a few more as it’s proved to be a hugely enjoyable and rewarding thing to do. It’s been fantastic actually sitting down with people to show them a few things about the internet, but the best thing about the week has been finding out why people want to get on the internet. The answers are as varied as the people are and every time led to an interesting conversation about how the internet could enhance what people already do in their lives, rather than being a pointless time-waster as some seem to think.
Over the course of this week I’ve met Jimmy who wanted to be able to email his son in Australia, Felicity who wanted to be able to use a computer so she could start a distance learning course (an easier option for her due to her limited mobility), and an artist who wanted to eventually be able to build her own website to showcase her art.
Today I spent a couple of hours at Wetherspoon in Sheffield city centre. Although the session is run regularly every Friday morning by staff from UK online centres, this week seemed to be especially busy with some of the regulars bringing their friends along to have a go, as well as a few who had heard about the Go ON Sheffield event and wanted to find out more about taking their first steps online.
I sat with Myra who, after a few weeks of attending these sessions, can now quite happily email her daughters and search for missed episodes of her favourite TV programmes. Looking for something different to show her, we got topical and after searching for Christmas presents online we ended up looking at online photos of the Remembrance Day March which she attends every year. Myra even spotted someone she knows in one of the photos!
The one thing all the learners I met had in common was that they wanted to know how they could carry on learning more after the taster session was over. Even those who had initially seemed doubtful that the internet had anything to offer them were reluctant to leave by the end without finding out where their nearest regular sessions were. I have a funny feeling that the centres of Sheffield will be very busy over the next few months.