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Training set to help improve people’s lives

By Mark Smith, Digital Content Development Officer

Digital Communities Wales provides training to organisations that are working with digitally excluded groups, particularly older people, people with disabilities, unemployed people, social housing tenants and families in poverty.

In particular, we can train frontline staff and volunteers (for example, customer advisors, tenant support officers, librarians) so they can confidently show people how to use technology.

Last week, I attended a training session that was led by my colleague Hannah France which was delivered to Communities First staff in the Ebbw Fach North and South Clusters, at Llanhilleth Miners Institutes. The training session covered three main topics – social media, e-accessibility and ‘money and the net’.

The group of nine participants was made up of people with varying levels of IT experience, with some already delivering sessions to community members. The session started with each person saying what their favourite website was. Facebook, YouTube and eBay all popped up, as you’d expect. This led Hannah to play a video, putting the role of social media in everyday life into context. With this video came a reminder of who was most likely to be in need of digital inclusion training in a community.

This part of the session looked at a number of things, including safety and security, privacy, use of social media in a community setting and sharing content. Padlet was used as form of virtual flipchart paper for the group to discuss what social media is used for. QR codes were also used in the session, as an easier way of directing participants to a particular website. By this stage, the group felt more confident and it seemed the opening topic of social media acted as a leveller.

While many positives of social media were covered, it was also necessary to talk about the risks of using such sites. For example, Hannah showed the group how to set strong passwords and how people should consider their social media persona when applying for jobs. The video ‘Can I be your friend?’ was played to the group, showing how our online lives have changed the world around us.

E-accessibility was the next topic to be covered, with the aim of improving awareness among the group of ways in which you can make IT more accessible to people with various disabilities. Disabled people are among those who are more likely to be digitally excluded, with barriers not necessarily easy to identify and work on.

There was a particular focus on the way you can change settings on a tablet or smartphone to make them easier to use for people with disabilities ranging from visual impairments to Parkinson’s. The advice passed on by Hannah in this section left the group wanting to know more about making devices more accessible to disabled people, as they are likely to need such knowledge when running IT sessions in the community.

‘Money and the Net’ was the closing topic of the day, looking at the various ways in which you can get more for your money online. The group looked at making transactions online, internet banking, security issues, credit unions, price comparison sites, finding discount vouchers online and money management sites.

With the onset of Universal Credit, the group was reminded of how they will be working with people who need to support to manage their money. A number of useful sites were discussed, including, which the Wales Co-operative Centre has worked on with Welsh Government.

By the end of the session it was clear that there was an appetite within the group to want to learn more and that they were keen to put their new skills and knowledge into practice. Andrew, who was one of the participants in the session, said “I thought it was empowering and I learned a lot. It’s given me lots of ideas to work with clients and help improve their lives”.