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Real-world drop-in closes, virtual drop-in starts soon

Meeting room at Whitmore Community Centre - no people, tables and chairs stacked

Real-world drop-in closed, not suspended

Our last session was 2 March. The 9 March drop-in was suspended. Today we felt that it was unsafe even for a podcast session with only six people in the room — so that had to be cancelled too.

We cannot tell you when we will be open again.

Virtual drop-in, virtual learning

The whole point and purpose of the drop-in project is real-world social inclusion — explicitly counteracting the social distancing of the virtual world. But now we have to counteract the really serious effects of social distancing implied by the COVID-19 crisis.

So we are going to fast-forward existing plans to offer an online drop-in and online learning to older people who are isolated at home. That might be all of us soon.

Many of you already have the basic resource — a GSuite account. More than 100 people have email accounts at seniors.org.uk, bold.org.uk, szs.net or agewell.org.uk. Those are all GSuite accounts, and they all provide immediate access to an online meeting room app named Meet. We could add about 450 more, and it’s all free for us.

If you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or a desktop computer that is not too old — and an Internet connection at home, you should be able to use GSuite Meet. We expect that many of you will need help while you are using it, so we will recruit volunteers to join the sessions.

The virtual drop-ins will be group events, not conversations between 2 people — so you can expect to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices.

We still have many details to work out, and we still don’t know how we can include digital beginners and people with no Internet at home.

The 24/7 Virtual Drop-in

Everybody with one of the GSuite accounts has already received a link to the first experimental online drop-in. We are still testing it, so nothing much will happen for a few days. The information you need will be in your email and messages soon.

Our response to the COVID-19 coronavirus

Normal drop-in has been suspended

(Edited after posting to remove references to Whitmore Community Centre, which does not figure in our current plans).

After the 2 March session, we suspended the weekly drop-in because Internet access had stopped — but we were expecting to return quite soon.

But on the following day, we realised that Internet access had become irrelevant. We can’t restore the normal drop-in until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything — but we would have to make substantial changes to ensure your safety. Here are some of the ideas and principles we are working on …

COVID-conscious etiquette and safety

  • High-visibility reminders of current guidelines and information — on the walls and on our screens.
  • Wash hands before entering or re-entering the meeting room, and again before leaving the building.
  • Keep at least 2m from every other person.
  • Don’t come if you feel the least bit unwell.
  • Don’t come if you live with, or care for, other people who are more vulnerable.

The equipment we use

  • Many people bring their own devices. We can insist that they should be clean — and not used by anyone else, not even volunteers.
  • Most people also use our laptops. We can ensure that each laptop is used by only one person during each session and cleaned after use. After that, they go back into the cupboard, and are not touched again until the following week.

Transport

  • Possibly the greatest risk.
  • Don’t use public transport unless you really must — and never during the rush hour.
  • We can adjust our opening and closing hours, eg- to finish at 4 instead of 5 pm.

Keeping in touch with you at home

  • We are giving a lot of thought to this, but there are no easy solutions.
  • We have email addresses and phone numbers of nearly everyone who has been to the drop-in recently — that’s you and about 300 others. So maintaining contact is not the main problem. Most people want real-world face-to-face help or support. That’s our speciality.
  • However, remote and online communication is well within our technical competence — and we expect to have at least one workable proposal soon.

Workshops instead of drop-in

  • We know there is a demand for short courses and workshops. We haven’t been able to meet it because the demand for open drop-in has been so much greater.
  • Last time we arranged Monday afternoon workshops was October 2019 (Google Photos 1 and Google Photos 2). We were instantly oversubscribed — but we were in control of the numbers. All we would have to do is reduce the maximum from 15 to 8, and repeat to prevent disappointment.

Audio activities

  • We haven’t done podcasting or Internet radio for a while — simply because we have been far too busy with the drop-in.
  • Both are suitable for small groups of people, and explicitly require you not to handle the equipment.

Your ideas, your preferences

It could be a very long time before we can get back to how it was last week. But what do you think we could do next week, next month, or the remainder of the year? If you  are a regular drop-in user, you probably know how to contact us quickly. The details are also on our Information page.

How we are coping with the loss of broadband Internet at Whitmore Community Centre

A temporary difficulty, hopefully

The Vodaphone contract has ended. Centre management are unable to renew it.

Our short-term workaround

We are using a portable wireless router with an upmarket 4G data plan. This is working quite well in the Meeting Room — but it won’t work at all for the desktop computers in the IT Room. Good, but not good enough.

Our long-term solution

We have a solution that will restore improved Internet access to the centre. We have put this totally-workable plan to centre management — and we will tell everybody else when we have their response.

Happy New Year, Happy New Decade

2020 - Happy New Year

Our Community IT Drop-in, 2020

Every Monday afternoon is an IT drop-in afternoon – 2 to 5 pm as usual

  • The drop-in is a weekly grassroots event offering digital beginners and learners help and support with phones, tablets, laptops — and understanding the Internet so that we can use it safely and sensibly.
  • And of course, it’s a social event – so people who have no interest at all in digital technology are very welcome.
  • We have been quite busy for the last few weeks, but we always have space for a few more people.

Run entirely by older people

  • The drop-in is a free community asset run by local older people, for everyone.
  • We have no age limits. Current age range is 4 to 91 (though most are 60+).
    We do not recognise borough boundaries.
  • No targets. No questionnaires. No remote-control management. Nobody is a client. Everybody is an asset. Everybody can be a contributor.
  • All you have to do is come – and then hit the buzzer next to the front door.

You can use the large Meeting Room, best for …

  • Fast wifi connections.
  • Use our community laptops.
  • Or bring your own device (laptop, tablet, phone.
  • Do anything you want to do, online or offline.

You can use the smaller IT Room with desktop computers, best for …

  • Job search, applications, CVs, etc
  • Claiming benefits
  • Online forms of all kinds
  • Learning word-processing and other applications
  • Online courses
  • Anything else you need to do

When

  • Every Monday afternoon, 2 to 5 pm

Where

  • Whitmore Community Centre, 2-4 Phillipp St, N1 5NU

More information

Google Photos workshop, part 2 – Monday 28 Oct

How to manage your photo collection – in practice

The first of a new series of Agewell Mobile workshops

I have installed the Photos app on my device. What should I do next?

The workshop last week (Google Photos workshop part 1) was very successful — so successful that we didn’t have time to finish, and we didn’t even start on some of the most important points. We under-estimated the interest in this topic and the number of questions that would be asked. We will continue next week — and we have space for a few more people who are not complete beginners.

Where and when?

  • Whitmore Community Centre, 2-4 Phillipp St, N1 5NU
  • Monday 28 October, 2 to 5 pm (the door will be open at 1:30 pm).

How to get on the workshop or ask a question

  • We have now filled all available workshop spaces!

Workshop links

  1. About Google Photos
  2. Google Photos support
  3. 30 tricks to master Google Photos
  4. Beginner’s guide to Google Photos
  5. Wikipedia – Google Photos

Google Photos workshop, Monday 21 Oct

Is this the solution to your photo storage problem?

The first of a new series of Agewell Mobile workshops

How can I manage thousands of photos, and how do I get them off my phone?

Google Photos is Google’s considerable foothold in this particular world of digital confusion. It’s an app that works on all devices. It offers free and unlimited cloud storage for all your photos and videos. It automates the upload from your device to the cloud storage area. It helps you organise your photo collection, and it helps you share it with your friends – or keep it as a private library.

It’s surprisingly easy, so at the workshop we will all install the app, upload some photos (which we will provide), and admire our results and how Google has organised them.

Does Google really love us as much as that? Is there a catch?

There are certainly some issues that can’t be ignored. We can talk about those at the workshop.

What about other ways to store and organise our photos and videos?

We have plenty of choices – but few, if any, are as convenient as Google Photos. We can examine them at the workshop. For example …

  • Cloud storage that is not free.
  • Transferring your photos to an external hard drive.

Where and when?

  • Whitmore Community Centre, 2-4 Phillipp St, N1 5NU
  • Monday 21 October, 2 to 5 pm (the door will be open at 1:30 pm).

How to get on the workshop or ask a question

  • You can just turn up on Monday afternoon (just before 2 pm).
  • Better – because we have only 15 places – tell us you are coming. Phone / text 07761 887927 – or email workshops@hellohackney.net