Category Archives: digital literacy

Spotlight: Literacy KC’s Digital Inclusion Fellow

 

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Sarah Bell, Literacy KC’s Digital Inclusion Fellow, pictured with the other 21 Digital Inclusion Fellows throughout the country.

I just returned from a week-long orientation in Portland, Oregon for Year 2 of the national Digital Inclusion Fellowship, where we, the 22 Fellows, heard from experts in the field of digital inclusion and learned best practices for designing and implementing digital literacy programs. Literacy KC was chosen for the second consecutive year to host one of only 22 Digital Inclusion Fellows across the country. This Fellowship, funded by Google Fiber, places Fellows in host organizations in 11 cities to address how to bridge the digital divide: helping individuals who are not digitally connected, whether that means access to quality Internet, a working and relevant device, or the skills and knowledge to use technology.

From my work with digital inclusion the past 6 months, I have seen the importance of including digital skills and training in our conversations about literacy. Our 21st-century society is technology-driven, which means having internet access and digital skills is a necessity, not merely a luxury. For our students to fully participate in economic and educational opportunities, digital literacy needs to be part of what we offer and teach. Literacy KC has made this an organizational priority, emphasizing that digital is one of the facets of literacy, and it is also starting to be part of discussions on a national level.

These national discussions about incorporating digital training into adult literacy curriculum is important because our students need access to all aspects of educational and economic participation. As you can see from the chart below, more and more people are recognizing the importance of having home broadband, especially within the context of career opportunities and learning.

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With so many things going online today–including job applications, healthcare, school updates, government forms, etc.–it is becoming vitally important that we bridge this digital divide so that no one gets left behind. This includes our students at Literacy KC. As I look ahead to the upcoming year, I am focusing my attention on four areas. My first goal is to better integrate digital skills and training into all aspects of our programming. This primarily includes our Ticket to Read curriculum, making digital skills an integral part of what we teach in the classroom. I will also be providing some specific digital skills training, based on feedback and input from students to ensure we are offering what they need and want. In order to offer a wide array of classes and assistance to our students, I will be developing a Train-the-Trainer program, where I will train volunteers to help carry out these digital programs. Literacy KC could not run without our awesome volunteers, and I am confident I will be able to grow our digital program because of our eager and helpful volunteers. Finally, I will be building our external partnerships within the context of digital inclusion. This will be on both a local scale, with our KC Digital Inclusion Coalition, and on a national scale, in both the context of general digital inclusion initiatives and with adult literacy specifically.

Want to get involved with Literacy KC? Visit literacykc.org or call (816)333-9332 or email Sarah Bell at sbell@literacykc.org

 

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Filed under digital literacy, For Volunteers, In The News, Programs & Services, Uncategorized

Literacy KC Term 1 2016 Recap

As we prepare for the Term 2 classes to begin, we reflect on the inspiring results from Term 1. Our students are consistently learning and growing with each day of class on their path to literary success. This past term, we had 13 Ticket to Read classes with 145 students enrolled! Take a look at the info-graphic below outlining some of the student goals achieved in Term 1!

Term 1 Results

Some of the other highlights from the term include:

  • 18 Students obtained a library card
  • 97 Students completed a free reading book at their reading level or above
  • 62 Students read a map or a bus schedule
  • 69 Students read prescription or medical information
  • 11 Students reserved a library book online
  • 22 Students participated in their child’s school parent organization
  • 28 Students had increased involvement in their child’s education/literacy activities

We are SO proud of the achievements by Term 1’s students! Are you interested in helping our students to achieve their goals? Get involved with Literacy KC today! Visit literacykc.org to learn more or call 816-333-9332.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Announcement, digital literacy, For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, In The News, Programs & Services, Represent, Uncategorized

Literacy Kansas City Chosen as Digital Inclusion Fellow City Host For A Second Straight Year

 

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Great news! Literacy Kansas City has been selected for the second straight year as a City Host for The Nonprofit Technology Network’s (NTEN) Digital Inclusion Fellowship!

Last year, NTEN announced its first ever Digital Inclusion Fellowship (DIF), in partnership with Google Fiber, which Literacy Kansas City was also chosen for. In an effort to increase digital literacy and broadband adoption in digitally divided communities, NTEN placed 16 Fellows in locally-based organizations in 8 cities across the country.

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Literacy Kansas City is proud to be one of the few organizations in the country to be selected to host a Digital Inclusion Fellowship! (Photo Source: Google Fiber)

This year, Kansas City is one of the now eleven cities to host a Fellow. Literacy Kansas City is honored to be chosen to host one of the 22 total Fellows in the country and excited to continue to develop our digital literacy program!

“NTEN’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship is a tremendous opportunity not only for our organization, but our local community as well,” said Gillian Helm, Executive Director. “We’re committed to helping improve adult digital literacy across the Kansas City area and look forward to welcoming our future Fellow this summer.”

“At NTEN, we see the impact that having a digitally engaged community can have on social impact work and want to be sure that every nonprofit and community based organization understands how to be part of the digital world and bring their communities along with them,” said Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN.

You can apply today to be Literacy Kansas City’s Fellow! Applications are now open and interviews may be scheduled on a rolling basis during the application period. Fellow selection may happen before the application’s close date, which is May 13th, so we encourage you to apply today! You can learn more about the Digital Inclusion Fellowship, the available Fellow positions, and how to apply here.

In addition to adult literacy organizations (7 Fellows) like Literacy Kansas City, fellows will also be hosted by libraries (7 Fellows), organizations that provide affordable housing (3 Fellows), and other organizations that specialize in digital inclusion (5 Fellows). All chosen fellows will attend a week long orientation program where they’ll be trained on digital literacy best practices and work to develop leadership skills.

“As the lead sponsor, Google Fiber will again contribute more than $1 million to help administer the fellowship. Our current fellows have reached thousands of people lacking internet access, trained hundreds of volunteers, and received positive feedback from community members. And with the help of NTEN, we hope to continue our progress” said Andrew Bentley, Digital Inclusion Program Manager, Google Fiber.

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One of our digital literacy class students working to improve his typing skills in Literacy Kansas City’s computer lab.

Throughout the past year, our current Digital Inclusion Fellow, Sarah Bell, has worked with students to incorporate digital activities into Literacy Kansas City’s classes. Our digital literacy program focuses on helping our students feel more comfortable using computers and associated digital resources in order to enhance their literacy skills.

“In the 21st century, it is impossible to talk about literacy without mentioning the digital component. Many of the discussions about bridging the digital divide focuses on alleviating barriers, helping those individuals who cannot afford the Internet or a device or who do not have the necessary digital skills to navigate. But what about those individuals who also have low literacy as a barrier? For them, technology can be one more thing that has a lot of words and letters that they don’t have the skills to read, or the confidence to navigate. However, technology can also be a useful tool, and that’s what we are teaching our students here. I believe as we help students break down both sets of barriers, reading/writing and digital, we will see their confidence rise in all areas of literacy” said Sarah Bell, Literacy Kansas City Instructor & Digital Inclusion Fellow.

 

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How Does Technology Affect Low-Literate Adults?

By Sarah Bell, Ticket to Read Instructor and Google Fellow

In the 21st century, it is impossible to talk about literacy without mentioning the digital component. It seems like everything has an online counterpart these days. Most of these provide convenience in our busy lives, such as online banking, bill pay, shopping, Google maps, etc. Of course, without access to the Internet, these can become barriers instead of conveniences, especially when the digital option is the only one. Many of the discussions about bridging the digital divide focuses on alleviating those barriers, helping those individuals who cannot afford the Internet or a device or who do not have the necessary digital skills to navigate. These are important conversations to have, and it is exciting to see how many organizations are working together to break down those barriers.

But what about those individuals who also have low literacy as a barrier? For them, technology might not just be too expensive, or one item on a list of skills they want to learn. Instead, technology becomes yet another thing that has a lot of words and letters that they don’t have the skills to read, or the confidence to navigate.

Before I started as the Digital Inclusion Fellow, I worked at Literacy Kansas City as an adult literacy instructor. I have worked with a lot of students who come to us with a variety of goals and needs. Some have very little reading skills, others need help with comprehension, and many want assistance with their writing. During our orientation for new students, we ask them what their goals are at Literacy KC, including if they have any that are computer-related. I will never forget one student I talked to, who explained that while she understands the value of computers and technology, she needed to focus on her reading and writing right now, so anything digital would have to wait.

Hearing her prioritize her goals in that way stunned me, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. Of course working on reading and writing skills is a tremendous priority for our students. But to go back to my opening statement, 21st-century literacy cannot be detached from its digital component. No matter what a student’s goals are for coming to Literacy KC, most likely they will need to know at least the basics of navigating a computer and the Internet, if not more advanced skills depending on their career and education goals.

Yet, technology barriers look different for low-literate adults. For a dyslexic student who may reverse her letters, typing in a web address can be a daunting task. Missing a symbol or hitting a wrong letter can take you to a completely different location. A lack of typing skills can prevent a student from completing a job application, or creating a resume or letter. One student had to submit a typed essay as part of his application for an online high school program. His essay consisted of all lower case letters with no spaces and punctuation. Similarly to misspelled words, poor grammar, and bad handwriting on a written application, poor typing can determine whether a student is successful on an online form. There are many digital resources and tutorials available online to assist individuals with learning about and navigating the Internet, yet they presume their audience reads at a certain (usually high) reading level, let alone that they have a knowledge of basic computer skills. My student’s statement about not having time to focus on anything digital is significant because I don’t believe we can separate out what we do in the classroom—teaching reading and writing—from the digital components of literacy.

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Represent Student-Interns working on their computer skills.

But technology is not all bad! In many ways technology can be a barrier for low-literate students, but in other ways it can be a tool to help them. Every week in one of my classes, I had a student speak words into his phone to give him the correct spelling while he was writing. We use a reading software program called Reading Plus that helps students with their comprehension and vocabulary skills, but logging on can be difficult for students. One of my older students always needed help getting on the website, although she was able to navigate it just fine after she got there. A few weeks into our term she pulled me over and exclaimed that she had gotten on the website all by herself!

I had already observed many of the positives and negatives of using technology with my students in the classroom, so when I became the Digital Inclusion Fellow, I had a good understanding of what worked, what didn’t, and what we could add to our already existing digital literacy curriculum. Moving forward, we are hoping to get more students using our computer lab. In addition to using Reading Plus, we will be strongly encouraging students to practice typing and to take our 4-week series computer classes, which will teach them how to use online library resources, navigate everyday websites, and learn parts of the Google suite. I believe as we help students break down both sets of barriers, reading/writing and digital, we will see their confidence rise in all areas of literacy.

 

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