The Digital Literacy Corps has the potential to significantly impact the digital exclusion environment in the United States, just as the Peace Corps has made lasting change around the world. In this article, Net Literacy recommends four ideas that should be prioritized when rolling out the Digital Literacy Corps.
Net Literacy and one other organization are credited for submitting the idea to the FCC that was incorporated into the National Broadband Plan recommending the creation of the Digital Literacy Corps. With the announcement of the Connect too Compete initiative in October, the Digital Literacy Corps will soon come into focus. In this article, Net Literacy reiterates some of the most important aspects that should be considered when developing this Corps.
Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction has joined Net Literacy’s Honorary Board.
The Net Literacy Honorary Board, Chaired by Senator Richard Lugar, includes Indiana’s leadership ranging from Lt. Governor Skillman to Congressman Carson and from Indianapolis Mayor Ballard to Fort Wayne Mayor Henery. The Indiana General Assembly has passed several resolutions in support of Net Literacy’s digital literacy, digital inclusion, and Internet safety programs.
“Dr. Bennett joined the Net Literacy Honorary Board because he believes that our student-managed all-volunteer organization whose board is 60% comprised of students is helping to increase student success. We are grateful that for his personal endorsement of our Financial Connects contest and appreciate the IDOE’s support of our Computer Connects and Safe Connects programs. Through one of our partnerships funded by the IDOE, Net Literacy is providing computers to 15 21st Century Community Learning Center grantees,” said Daniel Kent, Net Literacy Founder and Student President.
Sometimes, two letters are worth 1000 words. We are grateful for Senator Lugar and Congressman Carson’s support and advocacy of the impact youth are making to increase digital inclusion! We are grateful that the Indiana Humanities Council nominated Net Literacy for this prestigious event awarded at the White House, and that Dr. Greenwood seconded the nomination.
Thank you for your advocacy of teens engaged in the humanities through service learning!
Teens Take Elders to Tech Boot Camp
- JANUARY 12, 2011
Al Kouba, who lives in Bend, Ore., was told by his son in California that his family’s Christmas letter would only be posted on Facebook—not mailed. That’s when the retired systems engineer knew it was time to play catch up: “If you’re going to communicate with your family, you have to be on Facebook,” he says.
So he turned to a technology expert: his 15-year-old granddaughter, Marlee Norr. But as Marlee explained the steps to log on to the social-networking site, Mr. Kouba protested: “Look, kid, I’m 77 years old! I’m not quite as swift as I used to be.” Both laughed, says Marlee, also of Bend, and she agreed to “back up and slow down.”
A new gadget called “Chord Buddy” is allowing seniors afflicted with arthritis to play the guitar. WSJ’s Andy Jordan got some residents at a senior living community to rock out with it.
Teens can be motivational teachers for the elderly because of their enthusiasm for technology and agility with gadgetry. But, oh, the eye-rolling. These pair-ups can expose daunting cognitive and psychological gaps between generations, forcing young and old alike to adjust their attitudes.
A growing number of programs are training teens to work with seniors. The Central Oregon Council on Aging, a Redmond, Ore., senior-services agency, enrolled 70 people last year for tech training by teens from a nearby high school’s computer class, and 100 more are signed up this year. A Carmel, Ind., nonprofit, Net Literacy, enlists 400 to 600 middle- and high-school students each year for a senior tech-training program called “Senior Connects.” And at New York’s Pace University, a popular service-learning program sends students to retirement facilities to teach seniors skills from email and online banking to Wii and video chat.
Technology use among elderly Americans is low, relative to the rest of the population. Only 30% to 58% of people 65 and over go online, compared with a U.S. average of 79%, according to a 2010 study of 2,252 adults released last month by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.
But times are changing. Seniors 74-years-old and older are the fastest-growing age group on social-networking sites, where usage has quadrupled since 2008 to 16% from 4%, the study shows.
Many older people face cognitive hurdles. Studies show that as they age, many seniors lose some of their ability to remember, solve problems and process new information quickly. There are psychological hurdles as well. Among people over 65 who avoid using the Internet, the main reasons cited are that they either don’t feel comfortable or skillful enough to use computers, or they believe “the Internet is a dangerous place,” says John B. Horrigan, vice president, policy research, for TechNet, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit advocacy group.
These deficits may loom particularly large when a senior is seated across from a teenager who has been using computer and digital technology since elementary school. The Central Oregon Council teaches its teenage tutors not to roll their eyes if a senior points the mouse directly at the computer screen, and to avoid tossing around terms like “gigabyte.”
To spark students’ empathy for elders’ physical impairments, the Pace University program includes sensitivity training, says Jean Coppola, an associate professor who runs the program. Students practice using computers wearing Vaseline-smeared sunglasses and cotton balls in their ears, with two of their fingers taped together.
Students in Net Literacy rewrote tech-training lesson plans in large type, adding pictures and removing jargon to make it more inviting, says Don Kent, the Indiana organization’s president. They also work one-on-one with seniors so each can learn at his or her own speed, Mr. Kent says.
Morgan Starks, 21, a Purdue University student and former Net Literacy tutor, says she started her training sessions by introducing online activities older people already enjoyed, such as playing solitaire or finding recipes. This gave seniors a compelling reason to practice using a mouse.
Some older people are afraid of breaking high-tech gear or making irreversible mistakes. Twenty-year-old Brian Kelley, another former Net Literacy tutor and Purdue student, says he actually took computers apart in front of his elderly trainees so they could see that the parts are sturdy and unlikely to break.
www.eldercare.gov or 1-800-677-1116: Referrals to aging agencies for information about senior tech-training programs in your area.
SeniorConnects.org : Click on ‘Lesson Plans’ for training materials tailored to older adults.
Oats.org : Tech-education resources and links to senior blogs and online communities.
TheProjectGoal.org : Information and resources promoting Internet use by older adults.
While seniors are learning technology, teens are learning patience. “There really is no hurrying someone along when they’re trying to learn something,” Mr. Kelley says. But he found he was able to “tap into a well of patience” inside himself to take the step-by-step approach many elders needed. The rewards were worth the effort, he says. One older couple he worked with cried when they received their first family photo via email—a foal born on their daughter’s farm thousands of miles away.
Seniors often have to change their approach to learning, too. Jerry Thackery, 68, of Redmond, Ore., a semi-retired highway engineer, made a discipline of memorizing steps in new skills he was learning. But when he signed up for tech tutoring at the Bend, Ore., aging agency, he quickly saw that this approach didn’t work with his teenage tutor.
“For the kids who are doing this technology, they just pick it up by flipping here and crossing over there, and I go, ‘Holy cow!’ They seem to have that exploratory skill,” he says. His tutor helped him realize “I was making it more complicated than it needed to be. I finally abandoned my note-pad approach” and began trying new steps spontaneously, Mr. Thackery says. Now, he emails cellphone photos to his three sons, brother and friends and has begun using Facebook.
When Joan Iselin, 68, of Sun River, Ore., wanted to connect on Facebook with her two adult children and four grandchildren, she turned to her granddaughter, Sierra Sullivan, 18, a University of Oregon freshman. At first, Ms. Sullivan used words she didn’t understand and jumped a little too quickly from one function to another, Ms. Iselin says. She sometimes had to ask her granddaughter to repeat herself.
But Ms. Iselin soon realized going online “is not as difficult as I thought.” She set up her own Facebook page and began posting on her grandkids’ walls. She has since moved on to texting and says she loves the “instant gratification” it provides.
And after being with peers who “know all the shortcuts,” Ms. Sullivan says, she realized that with older people “you can’t assume they know the steps.” But after she learned to slow down, “I really liked seeing the light bulb go on,” Ms. Sullivan says. “It is really cool that I can Skype with my grandparents and talk about life.”
Write to Sue Shellenbarger at [email protected]
Read this story from the Wall Street Journal’s archives by clicking on this LINK.
Sometimes, a proclamation is worth 1000 words….
Net Literacy is grateful that Bright House Networks took a chance on a group of middle school students that in 2004, wanted to reduce the digital divide and increase Internet safety awareness. Since then, Bright House Networks and Net Literacy have partnered together, donating more than 5,000 computers to schools and nonprofits. Bright House Networks has also supported Net Literacy’s student volunteers helping them to produce Internet safety PSAs and has carried them on their networks.
Listen to Bright House Networks’ Brooke Krodel explain why Bright House Networks has helped Net Literacy’s students for so many years, by clicking on the logo below.
Thank you Bright House Networks, for giving back to the community that you serve and making a difference to so many. To watch a video of the City of Indianapolis proclaiming Bright House Networks and the Techpoint Foundation Day, click on this link.
With the support of Bright House Networks, Intel, and the Techpoint Foundation, Net Literacy continues to expand its partnership with the Indiana Association of United Ways. In 2010, Net Literacy provided 4,000 computers to 17 counties in Indiana, and has provided over 12,000 computers to schools, libraries, and other nonprofits during the last three years alone.
“Since January of 2011, Net Literacy has already provided over three hundred computers to thirteen counties, and we are on track to donate another 4,000 computers to schools, libraries, and other nonprofits this year. Through our partnership with the Indiana Department of Administration, and organizations including Carmel Clay Schools, the City of Indianapolis, the Town of Fishers, Angie’s List, Marsh, and the Carmel Clay Library, in addition to hundred of individual donations, teams of student volunteers in over 20 schools throughout Indiana will all be helping to reduce the digital divide and increasing digital inclusion. It’s a team effort,” says Daniel Kent. “We have more than 500 computers that have been dedicated to our initiative with the United way that will increase computer access in at least 17 additional counties this year, and that excludes 750 additional computers being made available to schools through our partnership with the IDOE, IDOA, and IOT.”
For more information, contact Daniel Kent at [email protected]
Good news – the Financial Connects Scholarship Contest will continue through June 30, 2010!
Learn more by clicking on the Financial Connects Award tab on this website.
Questions – contact Daniel Kent at [email protected]
Watch the 30 minute Internet safety training video created by Net Literacy student volunteers that’s being used by Indianapolis Public Schools to teach each of the 12,000 high school students receiving netbooks Internet safety. Later during the 2010-2011 school year, Safe Connects training will be taught by IPS high school students to an additional 5,000 3rd graders and 6th graders in a series of school presentations by high school Net Literacy student volunteers to their feeder elementary schools. Other school districts and nonprofits across the country also use Safe Connects Internet safety training materials. Watch the video by clicking on the image above or this link.
Students comprised 50% of Net Literacy Board of Directors, and student board members from T. C. Howe and New Tech High at Arsenal Tech serve as hosts, and the Public Service Announcements (PSAs) include student volunteers from Decatur Central School of IDEAS, Carmel High School, T.C. Howe, and New Tech High at Arsenal Tech.
Safe Connects is a program where students talk to other students about Internet safety in students’ own words. All of the content was written by student volunteers and reviewed by principals, parents, PTAs, and the the Indiana Department of Education. Net Literacy student volunteers also scripted and stared in the PSAs. However, Net Literacy is responsible for all content and materials.
In 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Resolution 95 – which encouraged all Indiana Public, Education, and Government Channel to carry Net Literacy’s Safe Connects programing and other Internet safety content.
100,000s of individuals have viewed Net Literacy PSAs on Bright House Networks cable systems and broadcast stations. Bright House Networks helped fund and has provided Net Literacy student volunteers public service announcement avails so that we can get the word out about Internet safety. Thanks Bright House Networks!
For more information, contact [email protected]