Gerald Haigh, independent writer to Microsoft, has written up this blog post following on from the recent post on Get Online@Home, 13th June 2012. Gerald was able to interview some of those who had benefited from the Microsoft backed scheme and took a look at how, with the help of refurbished computers and laptops at a reduced cost, has ensured that they too are able to take advantage of the digital world we now live in.
All the contributions I make to the Microsoft education blogs lead me to interesting places and people. How else would I get into the backstage area of QPR's Loftus Road ground or visit a shiny academy to write a blog in my old home town of Barnsley, or have access to a Reception at the House of Commons?
That said, the recent post on Get Online@Home reminded me of one of my most thought provoking tasks, which was to interview earlier this year some of the adults whose lives were made better, and sometimes entirely changed, by the affordable refurbished computers made possible by the scheme (The brief case studies on the Get Online@home’ website are based on these interviews)
There was Robert, for example, a state pensioner, running a family of four, including ‘Blaze’, the German shepherd pup, with the aid of the internet to find bargains, trying for competition prizes, seeking advice about dog training. And then there was Heather, another state pensioner, finding that her new computer considerably eases the task of being full time carer of her teenage grandson.
‘I’d have been stuck for how to cope with him. I would have been struggling.’
There were others, all with similar stories, all providing a timely reminder that there are people in our country who really do struggle valiantly to make ends meet and do their best for their families. For them, access to the internet for money advice, bargain holidays, information on jobs and courses etc can make a real difference.
Schools, it strikes me, have a part to play here. There can’t be many communities these days that don’t have their share of cash-strapped families and so it shouldn’t be difficult to pass on, through the children, ideas on how internet access might help, together with information about ‘Get Online@home’ computers and laptops.
One family I talked to particularly brought into focus an issue that surely faces all schools, or soon will do.
Christina, mother of Bria, told me how she went to the parents’ induction meeting when her daughter was moving to secondary school.
“The teacher asked me did I have access to a computer, and if not could I get one. They explained about the school’s online learning gateway that would be the main source of information.”
Up to that point, Christina had resisted her daughter’s plea for a computer on grounds of cost. Now, she faced having Bria put at a disadvantage right from the start.
The answer came in the form of a ‘Get Online@home’ refurbished compute. It was set up in time for the new school term, and Bria was off to the same start as her classmates.
“I look on the learning gateway to see my homework tasks,” says Bria, “And I do research on the internet. We’ve been doing a project on the history of the local area.”
So, although it’s certainly true that students do better if they have a home PC, they also clearly benefit from the overall effect of internet access on the whole family. If parents can keep in touch with school, if a freelance trainer can find work, if the pressure on grandparent carers (there are 200 thousand of them) is eased, if single parents can save money with ‘Martin’s Money Tips’ (‘He’s my guru’, said one woman I interviewed) then the children will be more settled and more likely to succeed. For me, that makes ‘Get Online@Home’ worth its weight in gold plated laptops.