Our computer class originally started at the suggestion of one of our clients. We set up with three working laptops and six students and have slowly accumulated computers; now we can accomodate ten students and have taken on a volunteer assistant teacher.
Most of the students in the class come in as total beginners, some never having sent an email or been on the internet; some never having turned on a computer before. After learning the basics, we work on a project basis, allowing the clients to learn at their own speed. The nature of the clients’ lives means that they cannot always attend the classes every week, so we run classes in a way that allows clients to continue with their work at their own pace, not missing out if they can’t make it one week.
Computers are not something normally associated with fun, but our classes are high- spririted and full of laughter. The students are able to laugh at their mistakes, marvel at their new skills and, importantly, find that they are able to help newer arrivals to the class. We have set up online email accounts, learned to search for specific subjects or images on the net, bid for council properties, and even shop online! Finding a favourite song on Youtube, or a specific news item in the clients’ own language is greeted with the pleasure of a newly discovered skill, an opportunity, and a door unlocked.
There is a waiting list for the class as we are short of laptops, but we hope to be able to continue to allow more clients to benefit from the independence they discover through learning to use computers.