Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First month of computer literacy: wrapped up!

Last week, we completed our first month of basic computer literacy. Most of the women went from never having used a computer before to understanding how to turn on and off the machines, drive the mouse and keyboard, create basic documents in MS Word, send emails, add contacts to their email lists, attach documents to emails, and conduct basic research using Google and Wikipedia.

Each woman had a different level of experience before the start of the class (some had used a typewriter before, for example), but none had used MS Word or an email client.

Ingrid even made a Facebook account (I know, arguably not the best use of time, but she really really wanted one, so I showed her how to make one during "computer free time"). She's actually become something of a social networking expert, which can be easily dismissed as pointless but I think actually ends up having a lot of value insofar as it has fueled her interest in using the Internet and the computer. Her questions about how to use Facebook invariably led to other questions about how to do more useful things like download and email photos.

All of the women who finished the course took a typing test in the end. They scored between 9 and 16 words per minute. Pretty good, considering that typing in Spanish is inherently a little slower than English due to having longer words, a few extra letters, and accent marks. (For comparison, Amy, Nora, our assistant teachers, and myself scored between 26 and 65 words per minute in Spanish).

The largest hindrance to the success of the course turned out to be poor attendance. Attendance for the computer classes was about the same as DHFs other course offerings, but missing one computer class prevented students from moving to the next. Between child-rearing, taking classes, fostering small businesses, and climbing out of poverty, most of our women have busy schedules and things just tend to come up. We are trying to encourage better attendance next month by refunding the sign-up fee to any student who comes to every class and completes all the homework. I'm also altering the curriculum for next month to make the course more relevant to the women's businesses.

We started today with the first level of Intermediate classes for the women who "graduated" from the basic level. More updates on that to come!

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