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New Digital Literacy Course Offers Free Computers

A free Chromebook computer along with a year of free Internet access will be given to anyone who finishes all 15 hours of a new digital literacy course that's kicking off at a library in Massachusetts this month.

(TNS) — A free Chromebook computer and a year of free internet access will be given to anyone who finishes all 15 hours of the digital literacy course that's kicking off at Nevins Library on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Library Director Krista McLeod said when she first heard about this offer from Tech Goes Home, the non-profit organization in Boston that designed the course, she thought there must be a catch.

But the group has a track record of working with libraries, schools and housing authorities since its founding in 2000, McLeod said.

"If you look at their website, they do have a lot of support from foundations and so forth," she said. "It's just remarkable."

Tech Goes Home will train library staff to lead three different classes, the first of which will be for adults and seniors, to be followed by a course for small businesses then another for parents and small children together.

"One of the things we want is for parents to be able to use technology with their kids so they know what their kids are doing, and can help their kids with homework," McLeod said. "It's important that parents are digitally literate, because kids are going to get ahead of you if you're not."

Interest in the courses is high, with 39 people already registered for the first class, and Nevins will start a waiting list if necessary.

"We'll start this small business one later in the spring and then we hope to run a regular schedule of classes," McLeod said. "We have four staff members trained to be Tech Goes Home teachers. They'll rotate their schedules to include this in their library duties."

Along with giving computers to people who complete the course, Tech Goes Home will provide each instructor they train with a Chromebook or iPad, depending on the age group they are teaching.

"We believe that in order to teach the course they must understand the technical aspects of how the device runs," said Marvin Venay, chief advocacy officer for Tech Goes Home.

Tech Goes Home is also unique in that they design courses for every age group, and for people from all walks of life.

"If folks want to learn how to do research on the internet, we will help to train staff with a curriculum that's going to be culturally sensitive, in the language of individuals who are receiving it," Venay said.

Tech Goes Home has grown over the past five years from a staff of four to about 27 employees. They have partnered with 250 organizations and graduated over 50,000 learners, as their reach has grown from greater Boston to areas throughout the state.

Tech Goes Home gets funds from city and state government, as well as from corporate and philanthropic sources, and is currently trying to access federal support, Venay said.

They focus on underserved and immigrant populations in Gateway Cities, but have made an exception by agreeing to work with Nevins.

"The people they serve fit the description of the people we serve in our Gateway cities," Venay said.

Grace Spaulding, the library's literacy coordinator, first recommended Tech Goes Home to McLeod, who said digital literacy is now of paramount importance in our culture.

"If you're not computer literate on the most basic level, you're being left behind in our society," McLeod said. "This is to make sure people aren't left behind, and make sure people at least have a device and some high speed internet access and a basic level of skills to get on the computer to do the kinds of things you need to do now that everything's online."

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© 2024 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.