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Colin Patton , Digital Inclusion Trainer

“What if I break it?”

“I’m not confident”

“No-one takes the time to show me how”. 

These are the usual phrases we hear from our ONSIDE participants prior to starting their digital training programme. As Digital Inclusion Trainers (DIT) we apply empathy to how the participant feels and support them to overcome the negative mind-set which can become a barrier in itself. I tell new participants that like them, I was once reticent about going online and now I’m an avid e-book reader. They laugh but it is true! 

As a child and then teenager I was a great reader of books, I devoured books like a teenager devours food! I would read anything from books about WWII to crime novels to spies … but I could never get into the ‘Classics’ at all … much to the annoyance of my English teacher. 

As I moved into my twenties where family life became a priority, I stopped reading books. Then about three years ago a friend introduced me to Agatha Christie and at the same time, told me about the Northern Ireland Library app – the ‘Libby App’. Prior to this I had borrowed a couple of audio books, but these were on 6 CD’s, great yes but not handy, not as handy as having the recording on my phone and tablet which the ‘Libby app’ let’s one do.

The ‘Libby App’ turned out to be a revelation as I could download up to 18 books. If there was a title, I would like to read but it wasn’t available I could place this on hold … along with eight other titles. The app then told me when these books would be available. It really did get me back into reading and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, when the opportunity arose to become a Digital Inclusion Trainer (DIT) I felt I could relate to the participants in some way. If that one friend hadn’t told me about the ‘Libby app’ I would be none the wiser and still only reading a daily paper now … and it may not be a broadsheet either!

During my time as a DIT I have watched 100s of participants begin their ONSIDE journey in trepidation and then evolve in confidence and self-assurance. It is a sight to behold.

Following one week’s training session about the Library and the Libby App I had one lady describe how the Northern Ireland Library Service is one of the best kept secrets in Northern Ireland. She told me how much she was enjoying renewing her love of books and having access to all the different magazines was also amazing for her. This lady who had no previous experience using a tablet, never mind downloading and using a reading app was in the same position as I was only a few years ago. Technology has enabled both of us to renew our love of books which is strange as everyone said the Internet would abolish books but it hasn’t. 

It just shows how the right guidance and support coupled with the right equipment can have a very real, transformative outcome. The ONSIDE project’s uniqueness is that we can tailor bespoke training to suit all levels of IT skills and cross-impairments. By having a Digital Inclusion Trainer meet each participants’ needs and bring them through the training at their own speed is transformative. As trainers we watch participants’ confidence grow each week.  Whether it’s an 81 year old who is ecstatic they can now renew their driver’s licence online or the daughter who can now see her 91 year old mother in Canada using Zoom … it’s transformative. ONSIDE realigns the internal narrative from “I can’t” to “I can.”

It is very hard to put into words how I feel about the ONSIDE project, but I can say it has been an honour and a privilege to meet with our participants weekly via Zoom or face to face to share my two loves, technology and reading. It can only be described as the best job ever.

Colin Patton is currently a Digital Inclusion Trainer with the ONSIDE project. Our Digital Training is managed by our partner Supporting Communities. To find out more about how to get involved in ONSIDE, register your interest here.



Author: Admin