Saturday, 3 September 2016

Providing affordable, consistent, and evolving computer literacy education.

Pew Research Center reported in 2014 that “among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90% go online and 82% have broadband at home”. While this may seem mildly surprising, what’s unfortunate is for those “earning less than $30,000 annually, 39% go online and 25% have broadband at home”.

As someone who believes that money shouldn’t be a barrier to those seeking education or information, these statistics baffle me. Jose Bowen states “the food industry has learned the lessons of internet transformation and has adapted successfully by enhancing, readjusting, and extending its products” (Bowen, 2012, p. 244).

The food industry is a generic example of a major conglomerate industry that has adapted its formulae to provide its goods and services to the public, for persons of varying income (for the most part). That said, I need to find a way to provide consistent and affordable computer literacy education that evolves with technology. Like food, computer literacy has become a staple to function in Western society.

A simple solution to most instructors nowadays, for providing course curricula to many students for an affordable price point would be to put their courses online. This makes the information available widely, without needing to cover the costs of distribution of physical information or instruction. However, as an instructor of computer literacy, this isn’t an option that would favour me.

There are community centres in urban areas, for example Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver which lend their spaces to volunteer-lead and conducted workshops. However, there is usually very little press about these workshops, and they usually involve a bring-your-own-laptop (BYOL) policy.

Without diluting physical accessibility, a core component in step-by-step computer literacy classes, I’ll need to work with and modify existing methods of teaching. I aim to teach and provide instruction regardless of financial situation or any denomination.

I may have to resort to older tactics I learned in university. As a former Public Relations Coordinator at CJSF Radio, I’ve had plenty of experience in negotiating spaces for events. I could arrange sponsored events at local shopping centres during non-peak hours. This means certain shops may subsidize technology requirements (big-box technology stores), coffee or tea, and even a space to host the event. It could be for as little as 10 to 30 people.

For example, Central City Shopping Centre in Surrey, BC would be an ideal location. They hold the Simon Fraser University (SFU) campus on-site, which has plenty of tech equipment. If they worked together with Best Buy, and a local coffee shop, there could be an event held at an atrium in the mall or a designated computer lab on campus. This is also a transit hub, which makes for easier accessibility for seniors and other transit riders. A nominal $5-10 drop-in fee or reservation for the workshop would help ensure attendance and avoid no-shows.

While there may not be much money generated for myself as an instructor, companies would have their products advertised. From experience, learners will usually tend to lend their technology purchases to familiar interfaces and products, as to not have to re-adapt to a different product.

I understand that I’ll still need to profit as an instructor, even if I do take measures like creating a low-income computer literacy workshop for seniors. However, there are definitely ways I can manage this. There are community colleges and institutions that I can work for, teaching certain classes during the day. For example, I’m more than happy to teach an introductory computing class at Vancouver Community College (VCC). I also understand they have a computer literacy workshop, which I can volunteer at on the side.

Going forward, these statistics have opened my eyes to remain true to my roots of how I was raised. While I need to work and profit in order to pay for my food, housing, and medication, I must also never forget that there are ways for me to help others succeed and put them in positions better than my own. I will work to redesign my curriculum for my computer literacy classes, helping to make them more affordable, consistent, and evolve as technology does. My own parents qualify as seniors who didn’t quite grasp technology, and from working in technical support, I can see just how lost they would be without becoming computer literate.

All in all, I will strive to provide an effortless experience to my students. When using technology becomes effortless for them, is when I know I’ve done my work. I can end this entry with one last except from Bowen: “We’d all like to be better teachers – even if we feel the university does not reward us for doing so. Creating a shared sense of mission about teaching, therefore, is more motivating than almost anything else.” (Bowen, 2012, p. 265)

Reference (Because I used a book from PIDP 3240!)

Bowen, J. A. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.

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