Cheylesmore is a large suburb, south of Coventry. Yvonne and Alex Robinson co-lead the community group ‘Cheylesmore Good Neighbours: Retired Rewired’ (CGN). A range of older people belong to this group and they are keen to better use their personal digital devices to book holidays, watch videos, use WhatsApp or attend Zoom meetings, for example. Learning sessions are organised by Alex and the group hosts these across three sites: Cheylesmore, Earlsdon, and Ekta-Unity. CGN state that:
‘We teach older people how to use their phones, tablets and laptops so that they can remain independent and connected with the community.’
In terms of recruiting tutors, CGN have adopted an innovative training strategy, as compared with traditional, certificated IT training courses. Tutors can volunteer with no previous experience, for example. CGN state that, ‘If you know how to work your phone/laptop/tablet then you’ll be able to teach the older learners how to use theirs’. CGN also partner with the University of Warwick so that students studying there can become voluntary tutors. These students ultimately work on a one-to-one basis with the Cheylesmore community.
During a DTPC-led focus group session with CGN, participants shared their thoughts on this lower cost, informal and personalised training strategy. One participant made use of the one-to-one tutoring to ask questions. This participant said:
‘I asked a lot of questions. If they didn’t know what you asked them, they would go to somebody else and find out and if not, they’ve learnt something as well as us, so they will come back to us.’
Another participant compared the CGN sessions to her experiences of adult education:
‘The big advantages of these sessions was, unlike doing adult education at a venue a) it’s one-to-one and b) you only learn what you want to know. It’s not a blanket lesson.’
For local authorities and other community groups who are concerned about funding and what digital technology training should look like, the CGN initiative is perhaps a useful signpost for future provision.