Cool Computing for Couthie Customers


Support by Aberdeenshire Libraries for customers seeking to learn how to utilise digital technologies, with help from senior pupils (who become ICT mentors),

Aim: To reduce ICT waiting lists whilst bridging the digital divide across Aberdeenshire by helping people who have no previous or limited IT skills become confident, independent online information searchers.

Aberdeenshire Libraries provide ICT support to customers seeking to learn how to utilise digital technologies. As demand was exceeding that which the support staff could provide, during core time, the service investigated the possibility of training senior pupils from local schools to become ICT mentors in order to manage and maintain the ICT learner waiting lists.

Aberdeenshire Libraries volunteers are senior pupils from local schools aged between 16-18 years. Library Learner Support Tutors recruit volunteers by attending PSE classes to promote the benefits to the pupils of taking part. Initially in 2011 5 pupils volunteered, however due to the success of the project another 5 schools have joined the volunteering scheme, and 36 young volunteers now deliver supported sessions in their local library. During 2011/12 pupil volunteers delivered 216 tutor hours to elderly learners, this has increased during 2012/13 to 474.50 hours.

Volunteering Training

  • Volunteers must attend 4, 1 hour sessions facilitated by the library service Learner Support Tutor

Activities during training – to make the training fun and varied hands-on activities are integrated into each training session. The first activity is using the ‘Ginger Bread Man’ Cool Kid and Couthie Customer templates, where the volunteers have to draw/write on the templates what they think old people think of young people and vice versa. The volunteers are then introduced to learning styles and how we all learn differently.

To demonstrate the difficulties elderly learners have with learning a new skill, volunteers are taught how to knit using a range of learning guides. The group is divided into three, the first group is presented with a beginners knitting pattern with diagrams and pictures of how to knit. The second group is provided with written knitting instructions and the third group is given a demonstration and supported session of how to knit. Each person is provided with a pair of knitting needles with the wool already cast on. From experience, the only group to manage the task in the allotted time is the group that is provided with the demonstration.

This task reinforces to the volunteers how difficult it is to learn a skill when you do not understand the language, or have no previous experience. The Learner Support Tutor gives a quick demonstration to group one and two and after a short time they too are able to knit a few stitches with support and guidance. Other activities include role playing and how to deal with scenarios they may encounter working with the public.

Volunteers are introduced to learners during learner taster sessions. During this event ice breaker activities are utilised to demonstrate regardless of age hobbies and interests we have in common.

Benefits for the Community

  • Breakdown stereotypes regarding age (both young and old), which has strengthened relationships between the local schools and older adults in the community
  • The pupils taking part have demonstrated that young people have good qualities and excellent skills which they have used to benefit the elderly in their local community

Benefits for the Younger People

Outcomes – volunteers
To become confident and effective tutors delivering quality sessions to library learners.

  • Volunteers’ state that this opportunity is unique to any other they have been involved with as they have developed existing skills and learnt new ones
  • They feel valued and responsible as their learners are really appreciative of them helping them to learn new IT skills, at the same time they are aware they must complete the relevant paperwork correctly and ensure their learner achieves their learning goal.
  • A number of volunteers said they were able to discuss in great depth their volunteering role in both university applications and university interviews, and believe their volunteering has contributed to their acceptance onto the degree courses they applied

Curriculum for Excellence, Building the Curriculum 4

Our volunteers have:

  • as ‘successful learners’ developed and utilised their literacy skills to enable them to learn how to be an effective ICT mentor;
  • been responsible citizens demonstrating the upmost respect for the elderly learners during the learning sessions, including the difficulties they may have with ‘getting to grips’ with technology. During learning sessions they have had to make informed decisions regarding a learners learning goal and matching this to a learners individual abilities;
  • boosted their confidence, and the opportunity encourages them to relate to the learners they are supporting while managing themselves effectively;
  • become effective contributors to the project and their community as they must utilise various communication methods in order to translate learning tasks and answer questions or queries learners may have regarding the technology or task in question;
  • been required to apply critical thinking in new context and solve problems when supporting adult learners, for example, a learner may have a difficulty understanding a task, feature or process and the volunteer may have to consider an alternative method of delivering the task or explaining the feature/process in order to achieve a successful learning outcome;

Benefits for the Older People

Outcome: To become computer literate and independently access information online and communicate with family and friends using email or social networking sites.

  • Being able to shop, bank, communicate and access information independently enables them to participate in the digital and feel part of society
  • Enjoyment of learning/working alongside young volunteers
  • These learning sessions not only provide the elderly with the opportunity to learn a new skill they are a social outing where both young and old become friends


The library service funded this project.


At the start of the first training session volunteers rate their level of confidence (between 1 – 10) by answering a number of questions related to tutoring, understanding of learning styles and how to deliver an effective learning session. At the end of training they rate their level of confidence again (between 1 -10) as well as provide a short summary of their favourite activities. This measured approach is effective as it enables volunteers to see how far they have developed during the 4 week training period.

At the end of their first block of learning sessions the Learner Support Tutor meets with the volunteers to find out how they got along and go over the learner paperwork to ensure they have completed this correctly. This review session enables them to discuss any problems they may have encountered and share their volunteering experiences with the other volunteers in the group.

Prior to commencing, learners complete a registration form and pre-course evaluation form and rate their level of confidence (between 1 – 10) with regard to using a mouse, keyboard, the internet, accessing information, using google etc. At the end of the six week course they rate their level of confidence again. This measured approached is effective as enables the learner to see how far they have developed during the six week course.

What changed as a result of this project?

  • Waiting lists in libraries are now manageable
  • Learners do not have to wait too long from expressing an interest to attending a block of learning sessions
  • Positive relationships between schools and public libraries

Next Steps

This year we will pilot a ‘train the trainer’ course where the current senior pupils about to leave school will receive training in order for them to train the new cohort of ICT pupil volunteers. This approach will mean the library service can increase the number of schools taking part including reaching more learners in need of ICT support.


Last summer all volunteers and learners were invited to attend an award ceremony and were presented with certificates. The award ceremony was facilitated by the Learner Support Tutor; and the Principle Librarian attended each ceremony delivering a short speech celebrating both volunteers and learners achievements.

Local Priorities

  • Increase participation for identified client groups.
  • Digital participation/digital literacy.

This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF).

Scottish NPF Objectives

The main NPF objectives that this project contributes to is:

  • Smarter will focus on improving literacy, numeracy and attainment and on raising and realising ambition for all.
  • Healthier will enable people to live longer and healthier lives

This NPF objective could also apply:

  • Smarter will also focus on being better educated, more skilled and more successful
  • Wealthier and Fairer will support activities that address inequalities and enhance skills, employability and job opportunities. It builds on the characteristics of solidarity, cohesion and sustainability to ensure that all of Scotland has an opportunity to flourish.

Scottish NPF Outcomes

Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens: To enable children, young people and (subsequently) adults to thrive from an early age, and make a positive contribution in the 21st century.

We live longer, healthier lives: Securing longer healthier lives for the people of Scotland will always be a top priority for governments and individuals alike. There are significant challenges which can only be addressed by everyone in Scotland working together, pursuing this goal through improving lifestyles and life circumstances, and a shared ownership of an effective NHS.

Our people are able to maintain their independence as they get older, and are able to access appropriate support when they need it: Providing high quality care and support to an ageing population is a fundamental principle of social justice and is an important hallmark of a caring and compassionate society. Collectively we need to give priority to ensuring that older people receive the care, compassion, support and dignity they need and deserve.

We realise our full economic potential with more and better employment opportunities for our people: If everyone has the opportunity to work, improve their skills and make a positive contribution to the nation’s increasing prosperity, we will create a wealthier, fairer and smarter Scotland.