Take a Tablet Castle Douglas Community IT Centre

Castle Douglas Community IT Centre

Charity registered in Scotland SC028140

  • From 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016
  • Award: £8,659 via Call 2

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Project plan

Project description

Castle Douglas Community IT Centre will deliver training on using tablet devices to older people who currently have no access to the internet at home and don’t already own an internet enabled device.

Delivery of this project will have two strands - a weekly 2 hour session for 4 weeks supplemented with supported practice or refresher sessions as required. Course content will include basic tablet control skills, accessing the internet, accessing online services (public and private sector), sending/receiving emails, video calling and social networking sessions targeted at improving communication with others. Participants will be provided with a tablet device to use at home for the duration of their course and signposted to local wireless ‘hotspots’ where they will be able to access the internet for free or at a low cost.

Participants will learn how technology can bring them closer to friends and relatives, engage with hobbies and interests and access information online.



The first courses began at the IT Centre in Castle Douglas on Tuesday 7th July from 10.00am until 12 noon for Hudls and 1:30pm – 3:30pm for iPads. The Hudl course had five participants during its first run with four people starting the iPad course later that day.

Regardless of the device being borrowed, participants followed the same journey during their 4 weeks with us:

Week 1 - Setting up and the basics
To show participants how the tablet worked we started from the outside and worked our way in, demonstrating the physical features of the devices such as power button, volume controls, camera, microphone and speaker locations as well as how to use the stands built into the tablet cases. After switching on for the first time we guided everyone through the creation of a Google account or Apple ID which would enable them to get a lot more out of their chosen device over the coming weeks. This included the creation of email addresses and passwords as well as choosing security information in case their passwords were ever forgotten.

To finish off we went through the process of connecting the devices to a Wi-Fi hotspot, answered questions about getting connected at home and encouraged participants to try accessing the internet in local places such as cafés and libraries by providing a local map and connection details for local hotspots.

Week 2 - Keeping in touch with friends and family
After a quick check for any problems and a brief refresh of the basic controls we began to focus on how the tablets could be used to keep in touch with other people. As all the devices had an email address configured we started by reading, replying and writing a new message. Once these basics had been covered we demonstrated how pictures could be sent and received by email and the benefits of using the built in contact lists or address book apps so that participants didn’t need to remember people’s addresses.

We then looked at apps like Skype and Facetime that enables callers to be able to see each other and save money on long distance and overseas calls by making them over an internet connection. Finally, we talked about the pros and cons for some of the other methods of keeping in touch with friends and family such as Facebook and instant messaging apps.

Week 3 – The internet and apps
Between weeks two and three we sent each participant an email to see if they could reply and let us know how they were getting on. When they arrived for their session this would prompt a quick refresh of using email and allow us to answer any questions that people still had. Then we started on the internet using the built in browser for their device (Chrome for the Hudls, Safari for the iPads). This was split into two parts – going to a website where the address was already known and then searching for information when they didn’t know where to look. Through these exercises we covered making bookmarks to easily return to websites and how to close pages when they were no longer needed.

For the last half an hour of the session we started to explain about apps, what they were, what they could do and how they could be found and installed including how to safely pay for them if needed. At the end of this week, participants were asked to go away and think about what they might want to do with their device so that we could help find the right app next week.

Week 4 – Apps, backing up and next steps
For our final session we wanted to wow participants by showing them what their devices were capable of as well as explaining that all their information could be securely stored in the cloud if they wanted to continue from where they left off when getting their own device in the future. Participants came along with ideas around what they wanted to be able to do with their device and we downloaded and installed apps that interested them as well as looking at popular apps like BBC iPlayer and iPlayer Radio. We then showed participants where to check if their devices were backing up to the cloud automatically and what they need to do to make sure that backups take place regularly.

The last practical part exercise was based around controlling the tablet with voice commands and we demonstrated how to search the internet, ask questions based around local information and send an email without having to type a single word. For the final part of the session we discussed and investigated online what the cost of purchasing their chosen device would be and best places to buy from, compared the cost of getting the internet installed at home and identifying things to look out for like contract lengths and download limits.

From these initial courses, five out of the nine participants indicated that they would be purchasing a device and getting connected at home in the near future – a great response!

Following on from this we took the project to Dalbeattie, Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart, Dumfries, Carpshairn and Kirkcudbright as well as running more sessions in Castle Douglas. We also supported participants that had purchased their own device by getting them set up and answering any questions that they had or problems they were experiencing.

At the beginning of each course, participants were asked to complete two surveys: the first was based around their capturing a baseline reading of their current digital skills, experience and confidence levels around using technology and the internet. We also asked them to complete a Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWEBS) survey so that we could record a reading of their well-being at that time.

At the end of their time with us, each participant completed two exit surveys: the first a follow up to the ‘baseline’ digital skills survey about how they had got on with their device, using the internet and their confidence and feelings around purchasing and using their own device in the future. The second exit survey was the WEMWEBS to capture participants’ well-being after their training had taken place and to see if there were any trends that could be identified.

Throughout their journey, participants were encouraged to engage in ‘homework’ such as being able to read an email sent to them by ourselves and send a reply if possible. We also supported learners through answering queries by phone and if they dropped into the IT Centre office. Through these additional engagements we were able to see how people were getting on with their device and encourage them to keep trying new things.

Ultimately, the success of the project will depend on the number of people that go on to use the internet more, get connected at home or purchase their own device. We will follow up with all participants during Spring/Summer 2016 for continuing evaluation before we re-launch the project as part of our core service in the autumn.

Outputs and outcomes
Overall “Take a Tablet” supported 43 older people to learn about using tablet devices to access information on the internet and keep in touch with friends and family across 7 locations between Dumfries in the East, Newton Stewart in the West, Carsphairn in the North and Kirkcudbright in the South.

Baseline reading – before any training had taken place:
51% of participants (22) did not own a device or have access to one at home when beginning their training.
77% of participants (33) had never used a tablet device at all before their training.
49% of participants (21) had never used the internet at all before their training.
47% of participants (20) were not connected to the internet at home.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that participants that were already connected to the internet at home were not using it at all and that a spouse or partner did any internet related activities for them.

Outputs – after training had been completed:
58% of participants (25) indicated that they would be purchasing their own device within the next 6 months.
10 (23%) participants had already bought theirs by the end of the project.
84% of participants (36) felt they knew more about technology and the things that they could use it for after their training.
74% of participants (32) used their tablet away from the supported sessions to search for information on the internet during their course.
65% of participants (28) used their tablet away from the supported sessions to keep in touch with friends and family during their course.
33% of participants (14) accessed the internet through a public Wi-Fi hotspot during their course.
75% of participants that were not already connected to the internet at home (15 out of 20) indicated that they would now get internet access installed at home.

We would like to share the stories of three participants that came along to our courses for their first taste of using a tablet and the internet to demonstrate the outcomes that have been achieved:

Nancy from Kirkgunzeon - Hudl
Nancy’s friend Helen contacted us to see if we had space for one more on our course in Dalbeattie. Nancy had recently lost her husband, didn’t drive and Helen was worried about her becoming isolated with her living out of town. Nancy had never used the internet or a tablet device before but was keen to find out what she could do. By the second week of her course Nancy politely returned our Hudl telling us she didn’t need it any more after buying her own. She had also signed up for the internet at home and was waiting for her broadband to be connected! By the end of the course Nancy had an email address, was registered on Facebook and Skype. Six months later and Nancy admits that she “doesn’t know what I’d do without it” and that she keeps telling Helen it was “the best thing she ever did”. She uses her tablet every day, sending emails to friends and family (including to family in France - she was “fair excited” when a reply was received) and using Skype to keep in touch with her daughter and other members of the family. Nancy has also found using Facebook has allowed her to reconnect with friends that she had last touch with over the years and she checks it every day to see what is happening. She hasn’t quite got round to ordering her shopping over the internet yet but it’s on the list of things to do.

Jim from Dumfries - iPad
Jim came to our first ever course in Dumfries, wanting to know more about the iPad that his wife used daily at home but he had struggled to use when it was first introduced to him and subsequently had not used since. At his final session, Jimmy told us that he was heading up to Glasgow the following week to visit the Apple shop and look at buying his own iPad as he didn’t think he and his wife would be able to share one! We caught up with Jimmy about 3 months after his course and found that it was his wife that had got the new iPad and that he was now using her old one and using it every day. His family had given him a fitness tracker which he connects to his iPad each day to view the information it has collected and how much activity he has managed that day. Jim is also emailing friends and family regularly and is signed up to Facebook and commenting on what’s happening to the point his daughter tells him he’s “beginning to get dangerous!”.

Margaret from Crocketford – Hudl
Margaret came to one of our courses in Castle Douglas having never used a computer or the internet but curious about what she might be able to do with it. On completion of her course, Margaret bought her own device and arranged for the internet to be installed at home. Margaret lived alone but visited her husband every day in a local residential care home. Through a programme called Music for Life, Margaret would take her tablet along and play old songs from YouTube to her husband David which he really woke up and responded to. She really embraced the challenge of learning new things and using the internet to find information and checks the local news and weather each morning as well as now ordering her shopping online and getting it delivered to her door. Margaret is off on holiday in May to Canada and has been checking the exchange rates online to try and get the best deal possible on her travel money. She told us that using the device has allowed the “world to open up” for her and that she was “so happy” to be able to send emails “all over the place” to friends and family around the UK and rest of the world.

Lessons learned

Things that worked well:

• Participants used the devices while they had them.
Around two thirds (65%) of participants used the tablet they borrowed to keep in touch with friends and family and just under three quarters (74%) used it to find information on the internet.

• The number of participants expecting to buy their own device.
By the end of the project 58% of participants indicated that they would be buying their own device within the next 6 months. Two participants had bought theirs before they had finished their course – one gave us our tablet back at the beginning of her second week!

• Expanding our network of suitable and accessible training venues in our area.
While the IT Centre has its own training room and access to superfast broadband in Castle Douglas, providing training in other areas of the region can be tricky. Take a Tablet has enabled us to bring our services to 4 new venues so that people at risk of digital and social isolation can access help and support at a place that is accessible and local to them. All our new venues have indicated that they would be willing to extend their participation going forward.

Things that we would do differently next time:
• Improved targeting of those most at risk of social and digital isolation.
The responses to our opening and closing surveys around isolation make interesting reading. While over three quarters of participants (77%) indicated that they did not feel lonely before the training took place, by the end of the course almost the same number (74%) felt that technology helps to reduce feelings of loneliness. As an organisation we have already held discussions with our local Community Participation Officer within the NHS about supporting those that are isolated or at risk of isolation.

We will also aim to inform targeted partner organisations with more information on the Take a Tablet service and its benefits so that they can refer people to us as they are identified.

• Make the courses longer so that participants have more time with the device.
Over a third of participants (37%, 15) indicated that they would have preferred more time with their device. We will look to extend the duration of the courses going forward by an additional two weeks, using the first four weeks to cover the existing syllabus and the additional time to field more questions, work with individuals on their specific needs and have include a refresh of the areas covered in the final week.

• Build in a ‘field trip’ for participants to get first-hand experience of connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
While the courses were held in community facilities that provided access to a wireless internet connection, only 33% of participants (14) actually accessed another Wi-Fi hotspot during their time borrowing our tablets. We will investigate switching the venue for one session of the course to a local café or alternative community facility so that participants are more aware of what is required when connecting to the internet away from the home. This will also boost the social inclusion aspect of the project, encouraging participants to go somewhere new potentially meet new people.

Our digital work is delivered in partnership with: