Free digital training classes coming to Macon

alopez@macon.comOctober 19, 2013 

  • Coaching on basic computer, Internet and social media skills will be available at four Macon locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday:

    Washington Memorial Library (1180 Washington Ave.)

    The Adult Learning Center at Central Georgia Technical College (3300 Macon Tech Drive)

    The Buck Melton Center (150 Sessions Drive)

    The Family Investment Center (905 Main St.)

    Source: Connect2Compete

Mary Robinson visits schools in Bibb County, where a large percentage of students are from low income families.

The students she encounters have a wide range of disadvantages, but her focus is to ensure they have access to the Internet at home.

“In the schools that I go to, it is probably about half of the population will have computers at home,” Robinson said.

While there are no county statistics to confirm Robinson’s experience, close to 24 percent of households in the state lack a computer, and about 6 percent have a computer but no Internet access, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Students aren’t the only ones affected by a lack of connectivity, as it affects teachers in what projects they can assign and parents struggling to find work. The problem also keeps families isolated from loved ones and from cultural enrichment.

Robinson is the Bibb program manager for Connect2Compete, a national nonprofit organization which partners locally with Cox Communications to offer home Internet service at $9.95 per month to households with at least one student who qualifies for free or reduced price lunch. The mission of Connect2Compete is make high-speed Internet available and affordable to all Americans.

“We have to get these kids connected,” Robinson said. “There is no room for anybody left behind.”

Homework requires Internet

Robinson said that starting in third grade, 76 percent of teachers assign Internet-based homework. They also post grades online and use email to communicate with parents, she said.

“All of a sudden a child feels ‘wow, I’m different,’” she said, “‘I don’t have what he has or what she has.’ So their performance suffers, and their behavior suffers because they want attention in a different way.”

Because some students have access to resources and others don’t, it creates a problem for teachers, Robinson said, as they must choose between assigning work that enriches learning or risk setting up poor students to struggle to keep up.

Job opportunities, family connections

Eighty percent of Fortune 500 companies only accept applications online, according to Connect2Compete talking points.

“Not only are the jobs online, but also the skills,” Robinson said. “Computer skills are needed in about three quarters of the jobs.”

Robinson said she recently helped her 90-year-old paralyzed aunt sign up for Facebook.

“It was an opportunity for her to be able to keep up with the family,” she said. “She invited several of her 90-year-old friends to become her friend, too.”

Additionally, websites allow people to connect to each other based on mutual interests and expose them to news and research, Robinson said.

“It is electric how it will manifest, and energize a cause and interest.”

On Oct. 26, Connect2Compete will partner with several Macon organizations to provide free digital training at four locations Oct. 26 between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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