Archives for category: education

I recently bought a tablet for my 85 year old Grandmother, and at the same time I bought a licence for Breezie. This is a piece of software endorsed by Age UK that helps simplify the interface on a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

When I was researching this for my Grandmother, I couldn’t find much in the way of independent user experience, particularly if you are buying and installing on behalf of someone, so I thought I would blog about my experiences here, in the hope this helps others make a decision.

The first thing to say, is that the tablet has been a huge success. I seriously thought there was a 50/50 chance I’d be punting it back on eBay within weeks. But Granny was emailing within an hour (having never used a computer in her life), and surfing within two.

It’s worth knowing that she is:

– 85
– partially sighted
– not confident with technology, but willing to give something a try
– has a simple SMS/call phone
– navigates a smart TV with Sky channels and recording (which, given how unfriendly these interfaces can be, has no doubt helped)
– had never used a desktop or any other computer before

IMG_2060Breezie only works with a Samsung Galaxy tab, which is frustrating. Originally, I was tempted to buy a more expensive iPad and set up a nice decluttered home screen.

I bought the Samsung and attempted to do this anyway, which appeared impossible. It came fresh out of the box with huge amounts of rubbish installed and hundreds of annoying, poorly worded notifications pinging and flashing away. If I had to use a Samsung Galaxy tab, I’d want Breezie too.

The question remains, would Granny do just as well with a stripped back iPad? Possibly.

No matter, I bought the Samsung, realised Breezie was going to be necessary, and ordered a licence. Fair to say that the whole experience gets better, eventually. I found their website tricky to understand and wasn’t entirely clear what I was getting for my £75. There don’t appear to be any useful screenshots on their website.

I received various oddly-worded emails confirming my order, and after accidentally binning one of these, which contained the link from which I could download the software, I was ready to set up.

The underlying problem with the instructions is that they assume your friend/relative is already online; that they have an email account, and, strangely, assume they have Facebook and Skype. None of which Granny had.

It isn’t possible to set up Breezie, then add in an email account, as far as I can tell. So, for example, if you had a friend or relative who simply wants to surf, Skype and read Kindle, and not email, this isn’t for you.

To begin with I had incorrectly set up my own Google account on the tablet (Google is the default for Breezie), so went back in using the account I created for my Granny. This is OK in hindsight, but the instructions talk about the user in the third person, while in fact you (the ‘sponsor’) have to pretend to be that person for the purposes of set up.

Once you are set up, things get a lot better, and I see the value of Breezie. The email interface is brilliant, plus the fact that I can log in remotely and add different buttons to the home screen as Granny’s confidence develops.

There is a greater range of Breezie-fied apps available than you might think, from their website. Neat buttons to help navigate photos, reading, Skype and shopping.

The micro copy and navigation around email is thoughtful and clear. The colours seem helpful in this case, and the whole thing is far from intimidating. I know my Granny quite well, obviously, so if she was feeling overwhelmed it would be obvious to me.

While she is getting on fine surfing the web, the browser is a bit disappointing with Breezie. It’s just the standard Chrome, interface, which means the tabs are too small.

The home screen only allows two buttons plus a third for ‘other apps’, whereas I’d quite like her to have, say, email, web and reading on the home screen, with a fourth button for other things, further down the line.

More recently, an annoying pop-up has appeared saying something about the account needing updating. This turned out to be yet another unnecessary prompt to enter Facebook account details.

Worth £75? Possibly, but if finances allow, I’d recommend testing an iPad first.

I get the impression my Grandmother might be a bit of an edge case for Breezie. Their marketing appears to target 60-somethings who already use the web, but want to simplify their existing interface. But there’s no denying I am deeply impressed that Granny is on email, and exploring the web with confidence.

Intern magazine

I’ve just finished reading issue 0 of Intern – a new magazine for the loose collective of people who are taking a vocational route to start their career.

As someone who spent a fair amount of my early career ‘interning’ I’m really interested in this, and how the traditional view of internships is blending with a world of work that is changing entirely. Issue 0 has an interesting feature on someone who’s using paid internships as a way of travelling Europe while building their portfolio, and others who are exchanging skills, rather than expecting conventional payment.

Cross-industry recognition of internships has long been missing, as a community to nurture and better understand, so Intern is very welcome. However, I hope the content has some practical focus in future issues. Stories of inspiration are always a good read, but there is also a crying need to inform and protect this community too.

It was an article in the Independent that got me interested in Intern originally, via Kickstarter. This is the first project I’ve contributed to, but it won’t be the last. The combination of Kickstarter’s slick user experience, a good, scalable, pitch from Intern (and, subsequently, lots more updates that make me feel like an investor, rather than a guy who gave a tenner) and the intersection of publishing and internships, was enough to land me.

If you’ve ever been an intern and are still interested in the sheer balls and excitement that internships demand, then it’s worth a read. And if you have always fancied yourself as an investor but don’t have the budget to match, give Kickstarter a go.

I secretly dread A-level results day, even after all these years.

I remember rushing home, envelopes in hand, keen to get it over. I knew I didn’t want to go to university, but I wanted this period of my life done with. And I still needed some sort of A-levels to get my foot in the door of journalism college, and to populate my CV – which was pretty sparse back then.

Nothing prepared me for the shock of my results. The subjects I hated and struggled with – Geography – had yielded a C, while the subjects I was passionate about and kind of wanted – English and Politics – were rubbish results. In fact, in one case, no result at all.

Now, I’d be happy if my children came home with A-level passes, regardless of grade. I would be sad if they felt these grades were the be all and end all as I did back then, for a short while.

I had been up front with my tutors for two years that I had no intention of going to university. They didn’t really know what to do with me, because it was assumed that A-levels equals university. Those big sessions on how to fill out your UCAS form, how to navigate clearing (heaven forbid!) all became free, and lonely, periods for me. In hindsight I should not have been there at all.

This isn’t another blog along the lines of ‘it all turns out OK’. But it is a hope that Sixth Form colleges and other institutions around the country will have improved since my day, and be genuinely more accepting of those that choose to take different paths.