A computer keyboard with different coloured light shining on it

Computers: tamed at Orb (photo by Tibocut)

It’s Friday morning and there’s a genteel hum of friendly chatter emanating from our computer suite as pupils take their seats for the first lesson of the day: computer skills for the over 50s. There’s a relaxed and informal atmosphere for members of our local community to drop in to and get up to speed with computers and the Internet in a comfortable and supportive environment. In fact our classes have been so popular that we’ve had to add an afternoon class for people of other ages who want to get more out of IT.

Today we have three ladies from our local community, each with different levels of ability and different aspirations of what they want from computers. We had a chat with two of them: Marian and Brenda to see how they’ve been getting on in our official UK Online computer suite.


Marian has been coming to Orb IT classes for about three months and came with little knowledge of how to use computers:

“I’ve got a computer at home but I’m not really using it. I want to get more from it.”

And like a lot of people who come to Orb IT classes, younger members of her family tend to take the lead with technology:

“They want to do it all for you … they’re so much quicker.”

But she’s determined not to let technology pass her by and wants to put her new skills to good use soon:

“I’m a member of a retirement fellowship … I’d like to be able to get on the Internet and send messages to other members”

Our classes start with the basics and work through a UK Online course called my guide which familiarises you with things like how to operate a computer and vocabulary you might hear when you use one. This is complemented by applied exercises like typing documents, designing leaflets and making presentations delivered by the capable David Smithson a retired IT teacher and volunteer at Orb.

Marian took part in just such an exercise, which involved creating a graph with illustrations and images. This taught the class about using Internet search tools and copying and pasting media while under the helpful supervision of a qualified tutor:

“I still need someone stood over my shoulder but I’m learning. I feel more comfortable now and I’m not afraid to make mistakes. I’m not as frightened to play about a bit as I once was.”

Here at Orb we offer an environment in which to learn from your mistakes, pick up new skills and stretch your comfort zone with computers and the Internet. Our classes are the perfect size to give the one-to-one support that beginners need, rather than struggling alone at home:

“If you have trouble at home on your own, you come to a stand still … but at Orb it’s good that people give up their time to help you.”

UK Online logo

Orb is a UK Online Centre


Brenda has been coming to Orb IT classes for about six weeks now, her reasons for wanting to learn more are quite different to Marian’s but are still as valid. She doesn’t have a computer at home, in fact she says she’s a little against them, but realised she’s missing out on something very important as the Internet and computers crop up more frequently in everyday life:

“If you want any information it’s all ‘dot’ this and ‘dot com'”

She gave a great example too of why she needed to learn more about the Internet:

“I wanted to order a perfume online that I couldn’t get in a shop … I saw something on TV too and I thought ‘I could Google that’ if I knew more about the Internet.”

Brenda had tried other IT classes for beginners in Harrogate but found them too mixed in ability:

“I wanted to know how to use a mouse whereas others know how to put a photo online – you can get lost in the crowd.”

A sentiment echoed by Marian who also went to an evening IT class elsewhere:

“There were too many people and only one young teacher, it wasn’t one-to-one and I spent more time waiting with questions than learning.”

Brenda’s IT skills have improved though since she joined the Orb IT class:

“When David says ‘log in’ I used to panic but now I can do it without asking. It’s just like learning to drive, we do it little by little.”

Let go of the fear

Two older people sat using laptop computers

Orb's computer suite

We think Orb IT classes are a great place to build up your confidence with computers and the Internet. Being frightened of computers is the biggest obstacle most people have to the opportunities that IT skills can bring at both work and at home: that can make you feel vulnerable and isolated. That’s something Brenda offered some advice on:

“You’ve got to be confident, not frightened when things go wrong.”

David, Mark and our other volunteers are here to help if you go wrong, show you new skills and guide you along the way, all in the supportive and creative environment at Orb.

Do you want to learn IT skills for free at Orb?

Our free IT training and access to computers and the Internet is available at two weekly classes:

  • People over 50 years old at Orb Community Arts in Knaresborough every Friday between 9.30am and 12.30pm
  • People aged 19 years and over at Orb Community Arts in Knaresborough every Friday between 1.00pm and 3.00pm

You should contact us to book your place.

This blog article was written by Chris Kenworthy: copywriter and photographer