March 2, 2011

Health Literacy Computer Class

We recently completed our first computer literacy course of the year, and the first one in our new expanded Northwest Center facility!

The most apparent difference was that the class could make use of the new (and very large) Bread for the City conference room, which is much more conducive to these kinds of large gatherings with lots of technology.

More subtly, we continue to change our class format. One year into this experiment, we have a better sense of what our clients’ true needs are, and what will capture their interest. So this iteration of the class focused a lot more on creating email accounts and learning how to use them.

Folks were truly impressed with the instantaneous nature of this medium, and started to get a sense of how fast information travels now.

We’re still learning, of course. Though the expanded space in the conference room is certainly welcome, I’ve noticed that a bigger group of students is not always better. People come with different experience levels, and therefore have different kinds of questions, which threatens to leave those who are less experienced feeling behind and intimidated.

This is really demonstrated by one of my favorite success stories from this class. Ms. B was new to our class, but told us she had already taken a few other computer classes at other places. So we initially paired her up with a partner who had a good amount of experience already. But eventually we noticed that he tended to do all of the work himself. Ms. B didn’t complain about that at all -- in fact, she insisted that she was happy to just watch. But I soon realized that Ms. B was very, very shy -- and she needed to have her own space to be able to learn.

As it turns out, the other computer classes had just moved at a speed that Ms. B wasn’t totally comfortable with, and she also wasn’t one to ask for help. So I set her aside with her own computer and worked with her one-on-one. That’s when she started picking things up! She just needed some hand-holding to get over those first hurdles. By taking time and bringing patience to her education, she was able to learn all kinds of fundamental concepts that we might sometimes take for granted, like double-clicking, and the concept of user names and passwords, ‘@’s and ‘.com’s.

Ms. B even left the class with her own email account, which she says will help her apply for jobs. She’s also excited to be able to keep up with her grandson, who has tried before (without success) to communicate with her by email. And I’m sure we’re going to see her back here at the next class.

Over 12 class participants received certificates for the completion of this 5-week course. We’re expanding our class offerings, too - we’ll have at least three classes happening simultaneously now that we’re in the new space. Stay tuned for more updates!

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