Technology and the Internet are not for everyone. My grandmother, who is a very young 96 years old (sorry for the reveal, Grandma!), often asks me about what my job entails. Trying to explain managing of social medias, reading applications digitally and in general, working in a paperless environment is very difficult to explain. My grandmother is a very intelligent woman – She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1938. She went on to be the director of different YMHAs (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) in Philadelphia and Montreal. Grandma even wrote a letter of recommendation for Henry Kissinger enabling him to get his first job. She sees technology as a burden more than help. I believe that the reason for this is not due to the fact that she is 96, but it is the fact that she never wanted to have anything to do with it. In the early 80’s, my grandfather purchased computers for himself and his two children. She never learned how to use it then, and then figured, “what is the point?”
This “digital divide” or lack of digital literacy is an issue. As technology moves forward, we need to bring our citizens forward, as well. As I said before, my grandfather purchased computers for my family in the early 80’s. He actually made this purchase for my family on the day I was born. I therefore have literally had access to a computer in my house hold my entire life. As new technology developed, I couldn’t wait to explore it and learn how to use it. To this day, my parents call me for my “expertise” on tech when they are making a purchase, or something “breaks” (i.e. they can’t figure out how to replicate something I showed them how to do). Again, my parents are intelligent people, but have been moving forward only as much as they have wanted to with learning new technology. They are now both proud owners of laptops – which they sit at their desks and use. My father has recently discovered YouTube.com and has asked me on a few different occasions if I would come over and “watch a video with him.” I typically humor him and go to his house and watch said video with him. I don’t mind, actually, because my father has a fantastic laugh that is frankly quite addicting.
My point is, we cannot blame age for the divide in digital literacy. However, people should also not see age as a reason to steer clear of learning how to use a computer, having an email address, using social media, etc. There are certainly benefits to each no matter your age or level of computer knowledge. I understand some apprehension for using online banking or securing other personal items and documents through the web. But this demographic of non-computer users should at least have a place they can go and become educated about the dangers, the issues they should not be concerned with, and just in general, how to become more techno-savvy.
I recently stumbled across just the answer for these concerns. Eureka, someone else has had a similar observation. The Rutland Free Library and Department of Labor (DOL) have actually been doing digital literacy programming for quite some time, specifically working with computer novices to assist in their job search and application process, basic services such as unemployment and food stamp registration, as well as how to effectively use computers and the Internet.
The newest addition to this line of programming in the Rutland area comes from VTel (Vermont Telephone Company). They were recently awarded a $116 million dollar grant to build wireless broadband, fiber, and 4G infrastructures in Vermont. A portion of this grant was also dedicated to addressing gaps in digital literacy.
VTel contacted the Rutland Free Library to ask if they were interested in hosting some workshops. Quickly discovering that other key players in the area were also working to address these issues, such as DOL and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC), a partnership was soon born. The Godnick Adult Center and the Housing Authority were also brought on board.
This coming Wednesday, June 6 from 10:30 am to noon, the Godnick Adult Center will be hosting a social networking workshop to see how sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can help you connect with friends and family. Other classes involve using the Internet for searches, free Internet tools, and one-on-one computer coaching.
These programs are not just happening in Rutland. Chester, Hartland, Pawlet, Saxtons River, Springfield, Wallingford, and Windsor are all additional locations where such programs are taking place.
Take advantage of the free programs in your area. For a complete list of programs, please visit or contact your local library. Ironically, you can also visit http://www.vermonttel.com/tech and click on the town you are interested in on the left.
This post originally appeared in the Monday, June 4th edition of the Rutland Herald. Visit the Herald online at http://www.rutlandherald.com.