Volunteers help home-schoolers learn by repurposing used devices

Chris Blandford, a volunteer with Computer Friendly, returning the first batch of refurbished equipment to Patsy Harding...

Chris Blandford, a volunteer with Computer Friendly, returning the first batch of refurbished equipment to Patsy Harding who was receiving them on behalf of Mandeville headteacher Cathy Longhurst. - Credit: Computer Friendly

Volunteers from a non-profit organisation have been collecting laptops, tablets and smartphones to repurpose them for students and children who need better access from home to continue their schooling.

Computer Friendly has been helping people in the district gain computer skills since 2002, but its normal operations have been disrupted by the pandemic.

Instead, they have attempted to support the community with a number of innovative initiatives including remote support, online courses, and recycling computers to be used by schools and other organisations.

One morning's collection for Computer Friendly.

One morning's collection for Computer Friendly. - Credit: Computer Friendly

Many students have had their education disrupted by Covid-19 as schools are forced to close, and schools attempt to continue some teaching remotely but this is only possible for children who have access to a suitable computer. Even in this digital age, there are many children who are unable to participate as they do not have access to a suitable digital device.

By the end of this week  Computer Friendly will have donated over 90 refurbished laptops and tablets  to 11  local schools and groups, either directly or through the groups who have asked for help for students and members in need during lockdowns. 

First they collect suitable digital devices from donors, then they clean and sanitise them at the volunteers’ homes. 

To safeguard any existing data on the donated devices, they remove and purge the old disks of data, install new faster storage and complete the build with the installation of latest operating system software, thereby making the computers much more powerful and fit for purpose for schooling. 

Rebuilding computers on the dining room table.

Rebuilding computers on the dining room table. - Credit: Computer Friendly

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Following the rebuild and test of the devices they deliver to various schools and organisations who allocate them to their students, children and people in need.

Cathy Longhurst, headteacher at Mandeville School, said: ”We are really grateful for these laptops provided by Computer Friendly. They will help more of our students to have a good home schooling experience without having to share tablets and phones with their siblings and parents." 

To date they have received 250 old laptops, tablets and smartphones for recycling, but are still receiving more requests for help.

This current activity is in addition to their work last year, when they provided 65 new and used smartphones, tablets and laptops donated by Tesco, BT and Good Things Foundation, MIND in Mid Herts and some directly from Computer Friendly  to students and isolated people struggling to get by during lockdown.

For several of these device donations they also provided some support and training to get people started.

Computer Friendly trustee Akhtar Zaman said: “To meet a growing demand for suitable devices, we welcome all offers of laptop donations preferably less than 10 years old running Windows 7, 8, or 10 which start-up and have a working power adaptor.

"Similarly, we welcome iPads and Android tablets which start-up, have been factory reset and detached from the owner’s Cloud accounts.”

Computer Friendly donated two refurbished laptops to Killigrew School.

Computer Friendly donated two refurbished laptops to Killigrew School. - Credit: Computer Friendly

Laptops and tablets which don’t meet the primary requirements may still be useful for spare parts, as would be peripheral devices such as USB mice, power adapters, cameras etc.  If anyone wants to help but does not have a device to donate, they can make monetary donations to help cover the cost of items required for refurbishment.

Call 01727 617359, or email  recycle@computerfriendly.org.uk for further details or to arrange collection of devices.