New computer program to enhance adult education

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The average person may know how to peruse a social networking site, but that is no indication that adult computer literacy is at the level it should be—particular in Richmond, said organizers of a new web-based program geared at helping adults improve their cyber skills.

“We have seen people with limited computer skills so maybe they know how to get on Myspace and Facebook, but they haven’t seen the potential of what they can do with the Internet,” said Sherry Drobner, program manager of LEAP, an adult literacy program sponsored by the Richmond Public Library.

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New program will launch in a format similar to the one already available through LEAP.

“I’ve had people come in and ask for the yellow pages, what yellow pages? Drobner said. “I tell them I don’t have the yellow pages but I have the Internet—everything is online— college applications, job applications, everything.

LEAP (Literacy For Every Adult Program), will launch a new learner web program on April 1 that will take residents beyond the basic computer search. It will provide free online tutorials that guide residents from beginner to mid-level computer skills. Instruction will be offered in both English and Spanish.

The program is supported by a $3.3 million federal technologies opportunities grant, which will be split among five locales across the country, including LEAP. Richmond’s program will receive about $400,000, Drobner said.

In partnership with city’s recreation and housing authority, LEAP will locate sites that have public access computers. Residents will have the opportunity to receive free training from tutors at these sites or have the option of connecting to the computer-learning site from the comfort of their homes.

leapimage

Tutor, Lindsy Clark assists a resident with a math tutorial at the LEAP headquarters located at 440 Civic Center Plaza (Photo by Sherry Drobner, LEAP)

Drobner said one of their goals for the program is to help close the digital divide in Richmond by giving members of the community an opportunity to compete on an equal playing field with those who have both computer knowledge and access to computers.

It’s not enough to just have a computer in the home or access to one at a community center, Drobner said. People have to know how to use the technologies to their benefit, she said.

“Information is power and this is an opportunity to get information,” she said. “A lot of people haven’t had the experience, but everything in life is telling them, you better it.”

To receive training residents sign up at the local library or one of several resource centers including the Nevin Community Center. They receive a username and password and access to free tutorials that guide them through everything from how to use a mouse to how to fill out job applications.

Up to 15 hours of information is available on the tutorials, Drobner said.

Similar programs have been carried out in Richmond, for example: Building Blocks, a non-profit organization serving Richmond’s Iron Triangle, has a program that gives free computer training and a free computer to residents of the Iron Triangle that have atleast one child enrolled in public school and no home computer.

The difference in the new pilot program is that residents will be able to receive ongoing training, similar to a LEAP Web site already available.

It is also a way to promote the use of computer access centers, which Drobner said are “underutilized.”

Robert Amador, who has taught adult education classes in Contra Costa County for three years, said learning new technologies and enhancing computer skills is essential to securing a job.

Richmond’s unemployment rate still hovers around 18 percent, according to the latest data available, and Amador said adult education is the means to help people bridge the gap between returning to school full time and increasing their skills.

Last year 50 percent of his class was unemployed, he said.

“From what I know people want jobs. They don’t know here they will go, but they do know they want to improve their skills,” he said. “ Most people are going to have to have the basic skills of technology and that’s just the way it is.”

For more information:
Robert Amador’s adult education classes: amadorr@libertyuhsd.k12.ca.us
Link to classes taught by Robert Amador : http://podcastteachers.com/
Note: Contact Amador for pricing on his advanced computer classes.

Computer access centers for learner web
Richmond Public Library
LEAP (Literacy For Every Adult Program)
Monterey Pines
Nevin Community Center
Note: List may increase as more sites are located before launch in April.

For additional questions about LEAP or the free learner web system:
visit http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?nid=788
or call Sherry Drobner at 510-307-8084

Volunteers are needed to assist residents in tutorials
Basic knowledge of Internet and computers
Interested? Contact Sherry Drobner at 510-307-8084

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