Tech Literacy Needs

Thanks to our board secretary Julie Walker for this post! If you are interested in becoming a tech tutor, we need volunteers on Friday afternoons from 3-5 p.m. at the Marshall-Lyon County Library and for special classes.

Log into computer. Reply to email. Upload document. Check social media. For many of us, these are everyday tasks. Without thinking, we download apps, craft résumés, build profiles, and navigate the Internet. Not everyone shares our ease.

When I was pursuing my Master’s degree in Mankato, I became involved with a technology training program through the Adult Basic Education program. Much like what Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota does, we taught group classes and matched individual learners with tutors, all free of charge.

I was floored when I started working with learners. Adults from 35 to 68 came to learn how to use the computer. Most people weren’t asking about how to best format a document or learning search terms. They wanted to know which button on the mouse to click, what an Internet browser is, and when to single or double click. Hunting and pecking for keyboard letters was a painstaking process. We couldn’t talk about email basics like the difference between “CC”ing or “BCC”ing someone because so many learners didn’t understand where to type in the email address … or really even how to get the cursor on the address line … or what the cursor was for some.

Many learners were referred to us from the Workforce Center. They’d only used computers before to check in and out of work or maybe to play solitaire. Few understood the wealth of information available through the Internet, such as looking up symptoms for health concerns, seeking resources about education services in the area, or applying for jobs.

A whole population of learners were eager to understand what they’d been missing online. They wanted to find work. They wanted to connect with family members. They wanted not to feel stupid for not being able to do what they saw children doing. Many asked for help from family members or friends to learn about technology, but few had people patient enough to answer basic questions. Few recognized how much there was to learn for basic skills prior to being able to do everything they wanted to do.

My parents, an accountant and an engineer, still do not have the Internet at their home. They do not have smartphones. And that’s okay. Technology is not something everyone needs to choose to have in their homes, but everyone should have the opportunity to understand what is available and to learn the skills needed to accomplish their goals.

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