Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to connect with Colin Rhinesmith, Community Media Coordinator at Cambridge Community Television (Cambridge, MA, USA) and Adjunct Lecturer for the Media and Culture Program at Bentley University. Colin told me that they recently held a very popular social media workshop for seniors at Cambridge Community Television (@cctvcambridge) but that it is a topic that would benefit from more coverage – so, I asked if I could interview him! You can learn more about the workshop and the issues seniors face with social media in the interview below.
How did Cambridge Community Television get involved with social media and social media trainings?
At CCTV we strongly believe that providing the tools to create media enhances citizens’ ability to participate in civic life. Since 1988, CCTV has provided Cambridge residents with access to media production equipment, training, facilities, and cable television channels to accomplish this goal. In 1996, CCTV opened computerCENTRAL, a state-of-the art community technology center, to extend our mission by providing our community with access to computers and the Internet.
Social media is a perfect compliment to our public access television channels. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other online tools extend our community into virtual spaces where our members can make and share media. The physical location of CCTV, as community media and technology center, provides Cambridge residents with additional opportunities to build community through face-to-face interaction; something social media can’t replicate in quite the same way.
CCTV first got involved with social media in 2005 when we switched our website’s content management system over to Drupal. Since then, CCTV members have used our website to set-up accounts, start a blog, and share their community-based, non-commercial media with residents in Cambridge and beyond. As a result, we have grown a vibrant and diverse online community.
In late 2005, Steve Garfield and Ravi Jain taught our first videoblogging workshop, Blogosphere: Video Blogs 101. Here is a fun video from a class they taught here at CCTV the following year. The social media classes have been a great addition to our training program ever since. More recently, we have expanded our offerings to include specialized workshops for seniors, nonprofit organizations, city departments and agencies. The response has been overwhelming. The extraordinary interest in social media training has allowed us to use our mission to serve a new information need in our community.
How did the social media training for seniors program develop?
CCTV has offered computer and Internet access to seniors in Cambridge for many years. As an example, we offer special hours for seniors in computerCENTRAL every Monday from 10AM – 12PM. We are also located up the street from the Cambridge Senior Center. The social media training for seniors program began late last year through a partnership with the Agassiz Baldwin Community. Members of the organization asked us to provide a workshop for their seniors. We saw this as a great opportunity for us to expand our social media trainings to an underserved population of our community.
When it comes to seniors using social media, at least in your experience, what are their goals?
Seniors want to know what’s going on. They hear about Twitter and Facebook, but many seniors don’t know what these tools are and how they work. They know their families are using them, and they see social media as a chance to connect more with their friends and families. Seniors also see social media as a way to connect more to the world around them.
What are their struggles?
Many of the seniors I’ve worked with are not sure how to get started with social media. It’s important for seniors to trust and feel comfortable with the tools before using them. Many seniors also prefer to use social media with people they already know. Some seniors don’t understand why a person would use social media to connect to people they don’t know. Lack of experience using computers and the Internet is also another struggle for many seniors.
Have you found, or has Cambridge Community Television developed, any valuable resources targeted directly at seniors moving online?
We had a difficult time finding social media training materials that were relevant to seniors in our community. Through Twitter, we connected to David Wilcox of Social Reporter who recommended that we take a look at the UK-based Digital Unite to find social media training materials for the “Over 50s”. David’s recommendation turned out to be an incredibly useful resource (Thanks, David!).
DU’s Learning Zone offers guides with PDF downloads on a wide range of social media topics, including information about how seniors can share photos and video, get started with social networks and blogs and learn more about web tools and security.
As we continue to offer more social media trainings for seniors, we hope to contribute our own Creative Commons licensed materials that other community-based individuals and nonprofit organizations can use in their work. People who are interested in getting involved can join our Technology Resources for Nonprofits group on our website.
How can interested readers contribute to your work and that of others assisting seniors in moving online (and doing so in a way that meets their goals and recognizes their fears)?
CCTV is excited to join other community-based organizations that provide social media training to seniors. However, we are still looking for successful training program examples that other individuals and organizations have offered to seniors that we can use and learn from here in Cambridge. Creative Commons licensed training materials would be particularly beneficial.
How can people follow you and Cambridge Community Television?
If you are interested in supporting community voices in media, please consider connecting to CCTV in person or through our social media platforms listed above. If you live in Cambridge, please stop by our community media and technology center at 675 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square to say hello and learn how you can make media for your community.
I’m happy to share this interview with Colin on the blog and hope to hear from you about issues, case studies, or resources you’ve found in working with seniors in social media.