Computer Classes for the Community - Continued from Page 1
I designed a computer course to help individuals in the community who may face barriers to using the computer due to low literacy levels. The course is two hours a week for eight weeks and focuses on a few main concepts such as formatting and editing text, saving a document, opening a document and printing. It also covers opening and closing programs, understanding the keyboard and mouse skills. The concepts are broken down into easy to manage tasks with lots of practice. I use a variety of articles or recipes, which are short and simple. Each week the class receives a new article to type into the computer. They learn to type, edit, format, save and print the article. I also created handouts using plain language, that explain step by detailed step how to do the tasks. One student stated the part that was most useful in the program was that “a person could understand in people words what you were learning.” Another student stated, “The detailed instructional pages are good to jog my memory as I do it at home.”
I have discovered that class members need the opportunity to repeat over and over again the same concepts. One participant remarked that repeating things over and over again helped to form a habit. He said at his age he learns very slowly. He is 93 years old. The lesson plan handouts in the recent CONNECT issues have been very useful. I especially like the lesson on editing text and spacing in Volume 5, Issue 2, pages 8 and 9. I downloaded the two recipes onto disks and had each student make the changes as directed. The students didn’t save the changes onto their disk and could then go back to the exercise and repeat it as often as they liked. This helped them to strengthen their skills in editing.
The libraries were a logical partnership choice in offering the course since they have a number of computers that are available for community use. As well, the library staff are often called upon to assist patrons on the computers. “This partnership fulfills some of the demand for instruction that would otherwise fall to staff,” stated one librarian.
The first time the course was offered it was advertised through the local community learning opportunities calendar. A few individuals were directed to the course with the help of library staff. The course was so well received that the next session was full with a long waiting list for another session.
One library board felt the need to remove all barriers for students taking the class and waived the nominal course fee. Although there has been funding to offer the course for only one year, at this time, the library is willing to find other funds to continue to offer the course. They felt the course added a valuable “service to their library and filled a gap in skills for people who needed (wanted) access to technology.”
The course only helps people get started on the computer but after the course many students felt comfortable taking other computer classes. Some even felt comfortable enough to teach someone else the skills they had learned. Many of the students felt confident enough to experiment and expand their skills. One student said she felt she actually learned something and was willing to try more as a result of the course. Another student said, “I now feel confident in experimenting with new areas.” One librarian commented that “students are all expressing confidence and a sense of accomplishment.”
I even learned a few things. It’s important to provide lots of practice for each skill learned and not to give too much information at once. It’s important to present material in small “bytes”. As for the student who was scared stiff, she said at the end of the course, “I feel more at ease. I’m convinced that I can’t break or damage anything.”
Rebecca Still is the Coordinator for the adult literacy program, Project Read Soon, Mountain View Society in Mountain View County, Alberta. She has also been a Literacy Specialist for the past two years. For more information on the computer course contact Rebecca at 403-556-3045 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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