Barbara “BG” Nabors-Glass, Seattle Goodwill Vice President of Job Training & Education, speaks about digital literacy at an event announcing a grant from Comcast that funds a program utilizing mobile devices to teach people technology skills necessary for finding jobs. • Courtesy Photo
Barbara “BG” Nabors-Glass, Seattle Goodwill Vice President of Job Training & Education, speaks about digital literacy at an event announcing a grant from Comcast that funds a program utilizing mobile devices to teach people technology skills necessary for finding jobs. • Courtesy Photo

Edna Deonaldo came to Seattle from the Philippines in 1995. For much of her time here, she worked a variety of low skilled jobs. It just was a few years ago, however, when Edna decided that she wanted to change careers. What she found was that many jobs in today’s market required basic computer skills, which she did not have. Edna also found it difficult to apply for jobs because she didn’t have the skills to search and apply for jobs, which are mostly found online.

She isn’t alone. Our region is home to many immigrants that come to the United States for a better life. A wide range of organizations, services, and government support aid these groups in establishing their new lives. The pathway to many of these services and basic functions have been laid online. Without the skills to navigate these pathways, immigrants are left behind in a digital divide.

Digital literacy is a basic skill for the 21st century much like reading, writing, and math. It is about being able to use a computer, but it is also about having the skills to use technology on multiple platforms.

Digital literacy is vitally important to new residents for navigating their community. They need to prepare resumes, apply for jobs, register for services, enroll their children, and access many other resources online. This is why Goodwill is developing a new digital literacy curriculum with generous financial support from Comcast, to train all of our Goodwill English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) instructors and roll-out the new program across our 10 job training sites.

Seattle Goodwill served over 4,500 adult immigrants last year (of which 24 percent were Asian students), speaking more than 100 native languages and originating from 113 different countries, facing multiple challenges.

Incorporating digital literacy into training curriculum provides opportunities to make classes and lessons more student-centered. Integrating hands-on technology into classrooms is important because students need to improve their digital literacy in order to be successful in technology-rich work and education environments. Because of resources like Rosetta Stone, increased digital literacy will also empower students to take more control over their own learning.

When we integrate digital literacy skills into the current ESOL topics, like employment and community, our instructors can create authentic activities that students can apply immediately and directly into their everyday lives. Using technology creates opportunities for student collaboration and more active learning, allowing instructors to assume more of a facilitator role.

Our digital literacy initiative will work to build on the technology exposure that students have already had while continuing to address students’ needs for better access and more market skills. Being digitally literate is an ongoing process in which individuals must actively learn and become familiar with new technology tools and resources.

A few years ago, Edna was able to take basic computer and keyboarding classes at Seattle Goodwill, which helped her apply for jobs online. Goodwill basic computer classes teach students how to operate a computer. She learned how to use the Internet and email, skills which can be applied to multiple technology platforms. Students can also take classes on specific programs like Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Excel.

“I wanted to expand my skills and get more training because everything is on the computer now,” Edna said.

Edna recently came back to Goodwill and took the retail and customer service class, which she was able to complete because she already had the online skills training.

“The computer classes helped me with learning the cashiering procedure,” Edna said.

The classes not only helped Edna acquire a job, but they also helped build her confidence. Today, Edna has a job working in retail and she hopes to continue her education to become a medical assistant.

For more information on digital literacy or classes at Seattle Goodwill, visit www.seattlegoodwill.org.

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