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Welcome to the Connect Hackney newsletter where we share learning from the programme on different aspects of social isolation. This edition is focused on digital inclusion.
The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a new light on digital technology, showing both the opportunities it provides as well as its limitations. However, the issue of the accessibility and usability of technology is certainly not new.

In 2018 Connect Hackney commissioned Newham New Deal Partnership and Groundwork London to deliver digital inclusion projects for older Hackney residents to explore whether and how digital skills could help reduce or prevent social isolation.
We have summarised our learning from these two projects into key messages which we hope will support the design and delivery of future digital skills courses.

The full evaluation report, including methodology, is available here.
Evaluation report

5 key recommendations on digital inclusion

  1. Base your project in the interests of those you teach - tailored teaching based in an individual's skills and interests works best.
  2. Recognise that signing up to a digital skills class can be a big step - in an ageist society which dismisses older people for their lack of technological know-how it can take both confidence and humility to attend digital skills courses.
  3. Be aware of the less obvious skills required to use digital technology- there are many aspects to using and understanding digital technology which need to be planned for. These skills include how to support those with literacy needs, working with cognitive impairments and managing unfamiliarity with the QWERTY keyboard.
  4. Purchase equipment or be prepared to teach on different devices - prepare to offer 1-1 support rather than whole class teaching if you aren't going to purchase equipment.
  5. Take technology out of the classroom - plan and deliver a class outing using online maps, travel apps and search engines etc. This will strengthen social bonds between attendees and also give participants experience of using technology to get out and about.
Click below for our listing of all 10 recommendations.
Download recommendations

Older People's Perspectives - what it's like to learn digital skills in later life

Watch the video below to hear from members of the Connect Hackney media group, a project where older people learn digital skills while producing the quarterly Connect Hackney magazine Hackney Senior.
Note this video was filmed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Watch the video to hear from members of the Connect Hackney media group

Provider's Perspective - teaching digital skills to older people 

Below is an interview with Fiona Baird, digital skills facilitator at a Connect Hackney funded project delivered by Newham New Deal Partnership.

1. Do you have a favourite and/or least favourite device to teach on or does it depend on the individual?
Fundamentally it depends on what people want to learn, what devices they have and which operating systems they're used to. However, we generally prefer to teach on tablets. A mobile can be quite small for older people to use, and tablets are easier for those with sight issues. They're good for watching videos, looking at photos and using zoom. While it depends on the individual, we've found that iPads can work well to teach beginners on.

2. What one thing do you think would most help reduce the digital divide in Hackney (e.g. provide free internet for everyone, massively increase the number of digital inclusion projects, purchase a digital device for all Hackney residents over 50)?
There isn't one thing - even if you gave everyone a device and free internet, older people would still need support using devices. They need to know there's somewhere to go if they encounter a problem.

3. Our evaluation shows how important it is to be flexible when teaching digital skills to older people given the different level of need and the different devices used. How do you balance lesson planning with having a person-centred approach?
It's important to listen to the needs of the client when they register. We do an initial assessment at registration where we go over 8-10 learning areas that we could focus on. This enables us to choose topics that are most relevant to each person or group. However, internet safety is non-negotiable, it's an essential element of any support we offer. We do a review midway through the course to get feedback from each client to see how it's going for them

Looking for funding for a digital project?

The Santander Foundation is open for applications of up to £150,000 for digital and financial empowerment projects. Deadline: 13 August 2021.
Read more

Interested to know what else we've learnt?

All the Connect Hackney learning and evaluation reports are available on our website:
  • Evaluation reports - annual report, reach and engagement report, community connectors report
  • Learning reports - outreach, co-production, getting out and about, making friends.
If you enjoyed this newsletter or have any comments or feedback, please let us know by emailing
Email Judy
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