SeniorNet History from San Francisco to the Horowhenua
SeniorNet began as a research project at the University of San Francisco in 1986 by Dr Mary Furlong. The project's aim was to determine if computers and telecommunications could enhance the lives of older adults.
The first SeniorNet learning center to be set up outside of North America was established in Wellington in 1992, with the support of Telecom New Zealand.
They started with 40 members.
In New Zealand there are currently more then 80 SeniorNet Learning Centers from Kaitaia to Invercargill. With the government's interest in supporting life long learning, SeniorNet has banded in to a Federation with each branch retaining its own local character and still going from strength to strength.
The Horowhenua group began in 1999 with a public meeting on March 29 to see if there was sufficient interest to form such a group. About 40 people were expected to show up - but there over 100 and the Freyberg Lounge in Levin was packed with standing room filling in the spare space. Many signed up on the spot. An open day was held at the classroom above the Post Office on
May 12 and the first classes began on May 17.
There was a tutor and an assistant for each class of 6 students. Manuals used were the same ones put out by the Wellington SeniorNet. Students received a 3 ½" floppy disk with exercises and a manual. The computers had Windows 97 and Word from Works 4.5 Suite of programs, this was application we started with. In our first year, we collected 153 members and were a bit pushed at the start for tutors. But as our eger students learned the programs, they in turn became tutors - finding out that the best way to back up your learning is to teach some one else. Seniors teach seniors - that is our ay of getting the skills across.
After a couple of terms above the Post Office, we shifted to the rooms at the Methodist Church Hall on Kent street where we stayed for a couple of years. Then we shifted once again to to the UCOL campus and expanded our courses and purchased a projector to hook up to the tutors computer so students could watch as the tutor demonstrated a procedure like 'copy and paste' or part of another exercise.
After basic word processing skills and File Management, students could go on to further courses such as Intermediate Word Processing, Email. PowerPoint Presentations, Digital Camera use, Spread sheets and Greeting cards in Word. (when there is interest in a topic, we try to create a class for it: Fancy Christmas Emails, Booklets in Word, Festive Table Crafts, Texting, etc)
Our most recent move was caused by the closure of the Levin UCOL campus and we are now at the Levin Uniting Parish Church on Oxford Street... better known as St Andrews.
As Microsoft rolls on, we now include computers with both XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Laptops with Windows 8.1 and cater for the Microsoft Office Suite 2007 and 2010. Our SeniorNet group also allows students to bring their own laptops if they so choose.. still trying to keep the class size to 6 students with a lead tutor and 2-3 assistants depending depending on the topic. A specific class is 2 hours one day a week, morning and afternoon.
We have class time set aside for hand held devices such as Ipads, Tablets, Cellphones.
Most days there 2 classes with Friday afternoons being set aside for a clinic where people can book to come in to get help or catch up with a missed lesson. We also have a team of tutors at Te Takere 'Levin Library' on a Friday afternoon, also a team at the Foxton Library on Friday morning.
Twice a term there is a Coffee and Questions sessions in the classroom when we get together and air our problems and frustrations, try to find solutions and have the computers handy to help answer problems. Also twice a term there is a members Members Meeting with a speaker in the Gilmore lounge at the church. Members are kept informed of events with a newsletter sent by email where possible.
We have maintained an active membership of about 200 members (about 240 at the moment). There have been over 860 members run through our database in our decade of helping seniors to compute.