First month of computer classes, wrapped up!

Last week, we completed our first month of basic computer literacy. Most of the women went from never having used a computer before to understanding how to turn on and off the machines, drive the mouse and keyboard, create basic documents in MS Word, send emails, add contacts to their email lists, attach documents to emails, and conduct basic research using Google and Wikipedia.

Each woman had a different level of experience before the start of the class (some had used a typewriter before, for example), but none had used MS Word or an email client.

Ingrid even made a Facebook account (I know, arguably not the best use of time, but she really really wanted one, so I showed her how to make one during “computer free time”). She’s actually become something of a social networking expert, which can be easily dismissed as pointless, but I think actually ends up having a lot of value; it’s really fueled her interest in using the Internet. Her questions about how to use Facebook invariably lead to other questions about how to do more useful things like download and email photos and navigate the Internet.

All of the women who finished the course took a typing test in the end. They scored between 9 and 16 words per minute. Pretty good, considering that typing in Spanish is inherently a little slower than English (Spanish has longer words on average, a few extra letters, and accent marks). For comparison, Amy, Nora, our assistant teachers, and myself scored between 26 and 65 words per minute in Spanish.

The largest hindrance to the success of the course turned out to be poor attendance. Attendance for the computer classes was about the same as DHFs other course offerings, but missing one computer class prevented students from moving to the next. Between child-rearing, taking classes, fostering small businesses, and climbing out of poverty, most of our women have busy schedules and things just tend to come up. We are trying to encourage better attendance next month by refunding the sign-up fee to any student who comes to every class and completes all the homework. I’m also altering the curriculum for next month to make the course more relevant to the women’s businesses.

All of the women that finished the class took a survey about their experiences. Getting specific answers to my survey questions actually turned out to be something of a challenge. For example, if the question is “What did you learn in class that will be the most useful for running your business?” the response might be, “learning more about computers,” which is all but useless if my goal is to use surveys to improve the course. I’m not sure if explaining the point of the surveys will help or if I should change the form of the questions to make it harder to leave vague responses.

We started this week with the first level of Intermediate classes for the women who “graduated” from the basic level. More updates on that to come!

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About blakemesser

Blake Messer is a MasterĀ“s of a Global Policy Studies student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a William H. Crook Fellow of International Affairs. Blake specializes in Global Technology Policy. Specifically, his studies revolve around Gov 2.0, social media, Internet policy, net neutrality, and the digital divide. Currently, Blake is working with DiscoverHope Fund -- a microfinance institution operating in Cajamarca, Peru -- to create an Internet literacy curriculum geared toward microloan recipients who make around $2/day. Prior to joining the LBJ School, Blake worked as an economic analyst for Quant Economics, a litigation consulting firm in San Diego, California. Blake also holds a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Mathematics from the University of Texas, Austin.

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