Friday, July 11, 2014

School District teaches computer skills to Latino parents

Class culminates with giveaway of machines destined for recycling

Express Staff Writer

Express photo by Roland Lane Blaine County School District Technology Integrator Paul Zimmerman helps parents of Hispanic students in the district set up a computer station. Zimmerman and district Translator and Latino Services Outreach Coordinator Gloria Hurtado-Hurst conducted a class this summer to teach basic computer and Internet skills the parents of Hispanic students. Photo by Roland Lane

   For someone who doesn’t even know how to type, learning to operate a computer and acquiring Internet skills can be a daunting prospect.
    That’s the challenge Blaine County School District employees Paul Zimmerman and Gloria Hurtado-Hurst took on when they organized a class for the parents of Hispanic students. Zimmerman is the district’s technology integrator and Hurtado-Hurst is the district’s translator and Latino services outreach coordinator.
    “We began this journey with a group of around 40 parents who had, in all honesty, never had a typing class or seen a laptop before,” said Zimmerman. “With parents at this level, we felt it important to teach them basic skills so they could in turn help their student children at home.”
    The class met for two hours once a week for several months.
    “We started with what a computer was and the varying types, working into keyboarding and basic typing skills,” Zimmerman said. “We then moved onto Windows and the basics of typing a document and saving it. Next up was using a browser to explore the Internet and access information.

We began this journey with a group of around 40 parents who had, in all honesty, never had a typing class or seen a laptop before.”
Paul Zimmerman
District technology integrator

    “Remember, that these folks started with zero knowledge of any of this,” Zimmerman said. “To see the transformation from level zero to basic Internet functionality is absolutely the most rewarding thing in recent memory.”
    The final class was on Wednesday, July 2, when the parents were required to learn how to set up a computer station by themselves, including hooking up a monitor, keyboard, mouse and desktop machine loaded with a free Ubuntu operating system.
    Zimmerman explained that the final class consisted of teaching the parents how to wire it all together, power it on, learn basics of the system and practice tasks that had been taught in earlier sessions.
    The final class ended with a surprise for the class. Each family was given, free of charge, the computer they had just set up and learned to operate.
    Zimmerman said there were 17 computers given away, and at no cost to the district. The computers were older Dell Optiplex machines destined earlier to be delivered to PC Recyclers in Boise for recycling.
    “They were basically rescued from the recycle bin,” Zimmerman said.
    There was no charge for the class. Rather, Zimmerman said, it was a function of the district’s Technology Department to “empower parents with the skills their children use every day.”
    “The class cost zero and it was a normal part of our daily work,” he said.
    “We are giving computers away to these families who have practiced with us for the previous months as a way of keeping their digital knowledge growing,” Zimmerman said.
“Sharing free computers with the community is the highlight of the summer for them, and for myself.”

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