Sometimes the outcome of a project is more than the sum of its parts. From the start, Digilit 101 has been one of those projects.
Last year, Library staff members at the Hickory Grove branch noticed many people using Library computer stations ask similar questions. Most don’t have computers at home and with some instruction, staff knew they could work more productively. An idea was born: develop and deliver a curriculum to help bridge the digital knowledge divide among patrons.
They developed a list of topics to cover, and in a stroke of perfect timing NTEN, an affiliate of Google Fiber, chose the Library as the site of a fellowship funded by the Knight Foundation. The Library’s first digital inclusion fellow joined the project team, and Google Fiber Charlotte provided Chromebooks for graduates of the first class. Hickory Grove staff invited computer lab “regulars” to participate. To qualify, the adult students had to commit to attending at least 6 of 8 weekly sessions, and have no tablet, computer, or internet access at home.
The curriculum included computer hardware and software basics, web basics, social media, and an overview of the Library’s digital resources, from e-books to online courses. Each session included group instruction and individualized practice time with the support of volunteers from AT&T. It was a learning opportunity for the volunteers, too – several didn’t know about the Library’s online resources, and signed up for Library cards on the spot!
Students from that first class have gone on to use their skills to find work, to connect with family and friends on social media, and to teach others. “This Chromebook means everything to me. It helped me get a job, and I’ll keep learning,” raves program graduate Lisa Brown.
The program has already been replicated in other branches. Now in year two, Google Fiber and Capital One are the primary funders for this year’s NTEN Digital Inclusion Fellow, who will expand the curriculum to “train the trainers” at organizations throughout the community and reach even more students. The program has expanded to include a 12-hour course in computer basics, a "lite" version for users with less time to commit, and DigiLit Community, offering specialized instruction through strategic partnerships. Over 200 people have completed the course since September, 2016.