Bridging the Gap exists to help schools and small businesses make the most digital technology in their unique contexts.
Shirley Booth is the South Island coach, based in Christchurch for Bridging the Gap. Since 1999 she was a teacher and she joined Bridging the Gap in early 2016. She sees it as a great way to combine her educational background and digital technology experience with her love of teaching adults, knowing that children will benefit as a result as well.
She considers herself to be quite a global citizen, as her dad is Zimbabwean and her mum is South African. She spent ten years of her childhood living on a ship, travelling all over the world – a benefit of having a sailor as a dad. (Fun fact: One brother was born in Colombia and the other in Spain!) Shirley’s family moved to New Zealand when she was 12 and she’s proud to call herself a Kiwi now.
Hi Shirley, could you tell us what Bridging the Gap is about?
My day to day job involves going to schools throughout the South Island and training staff in how to use their Student Management System more effectively. We also train people in using Google Apps for Education and help them with their website development, among other things.
I like to help people. I also think that each person has unique skills and they can be wasted if they are not used for the betterment of others. My skills happen to be in the area of training and digital technology, while my experience as an educator means I work well when training other educators. I love that Bridging the Gap exists to help people. It’s a fit with my values. We’re a small company and we all get incredible satisfaction when we see that our input has helped cause positive change. I love it.
How does Bridging the Gap set out to make a difference?
We listen. We don’t go into any situation with a one-size fits all solution in mind but get to know the people we work with and what their unique needs are before working together to find a solution. We want to see small businesses and schools finding that digital technology works for them, rather than being a hassle or another step in their busy days. We are excited to see people realising the full potential of the digital systems we train them in and we receive fantastic feedback too.
We know the importance of teachers and students being responsible and ‘Healthy’ online, so I’ve also been involved in putting together a course called Healthy Online – four interactive sessions to help teachers better understand Digital Citizenship and be well resourced for teaching it at whichever year level they work with.
The Healthy Online course ultimately exists to help students and teachers become better Digital Citizens. Think of the terrible statistics around cyberbullying, online scams and hacking. As importantly, so many people today have an unhealthy balance or understanding of online versus offline realities. Self-identity is caught up in social media for many and discernment is often lacking. Just like we have physical check-ups at the doctor, you could consider Healthy Online to be a digital check-up. It’s all done in a very positive, empowering way, either online or with someone like myself coming in to conduct the four interactive sessions. If the course results in people making better choices online, we’re thrilled!
We’re launching Healthy Online around the country over the next few months and are excited about how it can help schools. We’re also looking at modifying it for small businesses in the near future.
So you mentioned that’s your day job?
Yes, Bridging the Gap, that’s my day-job. I’m also involved after-hours as a freelance musician. I have worked with a number of overseas companies over the years, ghost-writing and recording educational songs for children. I’m currently working on a project for a Canadian TV company.
Bridging the Gap are launching Healthy Online in a number of centres south of Hamilton over the next few months by offering the first of the four training sessions for free to school leaders.