We’ve Got Mail!
Once a week I go to TST BOCES Adult ESL classes that are held at the First Presbyterian Church and offer computer and technology support to the students as part of the ONA grant. At the beginning of the spring semester, I was introduced to a trio of women formerly from Burma who wanted a better understanding of computers and the Internet and from that point forward, I began to meet with them on a weekly basis. Each of the women had different reasons why they wanted to become computer literate. For example, Ae Say was looking for a way to help her kids with their homework and keep in contact with her kids’ teachers, Mee Ngae needed a way to keep in contact with family that was spread out over the United States and back home in Burma, and Merry Paw was interested in email so she could keep in contact with her Sunday school teachers and friends in Ithaca.
Even though each student had different reasons for wanting to become computer literate, the beginning skills I needed to teach them were the same. To start, I introduced them to very basic things like introducing them to the computer and its different parts, teaching them how to power it on and off, what the keyboard was, and how to get onto the Internet. After this very basic introduction I showed them typingweb.com. This website offers a typing program that ranges from basic to advanced. After they became more familiar with typing and the keyboard they all created and registered accounts for Gmail. Once the three students had Gmail accounts, they began emailing each other back and forth throughout the class.
Next, I assigned all of them the task of attaining one of the ESL teacher’s email address so they could begin to correspond through Gmail. By the following class all three students had already emailed their teachers and received responses. This became very useful for Merry during the month of January when she missed a week of classes due to an illness. While out of school she kept in contact with her teacher by email to keep up to date on what work she was missing and also to inform the teacher when she was well enough to return.
Ae Say was able to use her Gmail account to sign up for the Ithaca City School Districts’ Schooltools program which allows parents to monitor their children’s progress throughout the school year. This also grants her access to the email addresses of the teachers in the school district; so far she has been in contact with her daughter’s math class’ teacher’s aide to help her keep on top of her homework. Mee Ngae has used her email to keep in contact with her family throughout the US. Next she plans on using the Google hangout feature to hopefully video chat with one of her relatives.
Week after week I return to BOCES and every week I meet with 3 students who are beginning to understand the basic concepts of computers and the Internet. Before these sessions started I took for granted the basic computer knowledge I have learned growing up in the US, but through these women I have gained a whole new appreciation for the time and difficulty it takes in learning something new and foreign.