Integrating technology into activities

from North London Cares (NLC)

The plan

The Mary Ward Centre warned us that technology can easily detract from the activity by diverting attention from its original purpose.

So we decided to try two approaches:

1) Host a tech clinic at our weekly social in Kentish Town.

2) Sensitively incorporate technology into existing sessions - i.e. Investigative work in one round of a quiz, using Spotify during our Desert Island Disc events and exploring iPads and virtual reality at the end of workplace visits.

“Workplace visits proved an even greater success. The atmosphere is more adventurous as it’s an unknown place, with new people, so the neighbours are much more game, in that moment, to try new things.”

What we expected

We thought that Option 1 might exclude regular neighbours if they weren’t interested in technology. We were confident option 2 would be more successful.

What happened?

Option 1 had mixed results. The first time we hosted a clinic there was a large turnout of both new people and regulars. In the second quarter we didn’t see the same response and while we met a couple of new people, regulars were disengaged as it felt like a repeat of the same event.

Option 2 has proved a much better approach. Subtly incorporating technology into Desert Island Disc sessions doesn’t distract people from the event but was recognised as a useful tool. Using Spotify is an opportunity to engage interest and give a small insight into the benefits of technology, without it feeling like a lesson.

“Using Spotify during our Desert Island Discs activity was an opportunity to engage interest and give a small insight into the benefits of technology, without it feeling like a lesson.” - NLC

Workplace visits proved an even greater success. The atmosphere is more adventurous as it’s an unknown place, with new people, so the neighbours are much more game, in that moment, to try new things.

“Yes go on then, I’ll have a go. You can but try!” - NLC member

The only downside to this is people who tend to go on trips are younger, more active and open to engaging. Therefor the less mobile or more isolated neighbours, who could benefit greatly from technology, are not included.

What we’ll do differently next time

We will leave a longer time before another clinic at KTCC and if we do host one, we will think of a fun activity which can engage the older neighbours who show less interest in technology. We have also started telling neighbours not to wait for clinics if they have tech questions. Our strength is intergenerational skill sharing and the time and trust built between people who attend.

Key learning points

For those who are trying to introduce technology into an existing club, find a way to incorporate a small detail which doesn’t feel intrusive in the activity. It can spark enthusiasm over time – especially if it taps into their interests – recipes, songs, videos, fact finding. It’s great if active engagement is optional, but the activity benefits the entire group.

For older neighbours who are more inquisitive, take them out of their comfort zone and make it an adventure. It should be fun, light-hearted and inspiring. Try to make it relevant to their passions.