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How digital literacy and learning classes can help connect people of all ages

Lawton, Oklahoma (September 5, 2023) - From 13 to 80. That was the age range of attendees who recently participated in a series of digital literacy workshops in Lawton, Oklahoma, at the Lawton Public Library.

The Lawton Public Library is one of the most beautiful libraries I have had the privilege of visiting and supporting. It is a true hub in town and a vital resource for the community's residents. The library provides 3D printers, a digital memory lab, a massive computer lab for the public, and a state-of-the-art telehealth booth.

The attendees arrived at the spacious classroom with their perfectly folded local newspaper clippings that advertised the workshops, pen and paper to take thorough notes, and a bit of hesitation and skepticism about what was ahead of them.

On Day One, all 14 attendees walked in, ready to advance themselves and improve their lives. However, they were also concerned that they were the only ones who didn't understand how to use a computer to navigate the internet. When asked what they wanted to learn or why they were willing to take two hours out of their day for the next three days to attend class, their answers included:

"I have to learn how to work my computer to feel comfortable and safe."

“I want to be able to get a job and work from home since I don’t have a car.”

"I need to know how to set up an email to communicate with the world and my family!"

It only took a few minutes for everyone to realize they were not alone. They were in the company of others who didn't have the internet at home, didn’t own a cell phone, didn’t know how to access the internet, or were concerned about the safety of getting online. 

Over three days, the workshop topics included computer and internet basics, email basics, cybersecurity, mobile device basics, and videoconferencing. In addition to the classes, four hours of over-the-shoulder training, and one-on-one specific training were also available.

I, along with library staff, volunteers from local businesses, and a college intern,  assisted individuals with personal laptop or device troubleshooting, enrollment in programs such as the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and education regarding how to protect personal information online. We even helped someone set up an appointment to have fiber installed in their home.  

At the end of each day, I took a moment to observe the group, and was so moved. I saw a community come together to support one another, new friendships and camaraderie developed, and newly established email addresses shared to keep in touch. Attendees returned each day with new skills, confidence, and excitement for what was ahead. 

And I thought I was just there to teach a class!

About the Author: Michelle Currier was a Broadband Solutions Manager for Connected Nation. Michelle coordinated and managed the activities of planning teams in support of Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program and the development of community-specific community team creation, data gathering, and technology action planning.