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iConnect: Skills for Working with Internet Beginners

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The Community College of Vermont has designed the iConnect training to improve skills for working with Internet beginners.

This training helps participants communicate effectively and efficiently as they walk beginners through specific online tasks, like navigating a website, filling out an online application, or opening an e-mail account. It also shows participants how to connect beginners with the resources they need to continuing learning and become comfortable navigating the online world on their own.

In 2011-2014 CCV instructors designed and tested the iConnect curriculum. The basic format is a 3-hour, in-person workshop with supporting materials that will teach participants to:

  • Understand basic digital literacy
  • Walk beginners through specific online tasks
  • Highlight core Internet skills
  • Give beginners the resources they need for further learning

It is designed to be a training that anyone can deliver and tailor to match the particular goals of their organization. The following materials will help you deliver an iConnect training. We recommend starting with the Introduction to iConnect then reviewing the guides and resources below:

iConnect Materials

The iConnect materials were designed by the Community College of Vermont for the purpose of sharing. Users should feel free to make changes to match their needs. If you want to know more about use of these materials, please read the Creative Commons information below. The materials walk instructors through presenting an iConnect workshop, and can be printed for workshop packets:

iConnect Guide (Word)
iConnect Guide (PDF)

Here are some additional resources for running a successful program.

  • Agenda (PDF) - Agenda at a Glance: Short overview of the in-person lesson
  • Background Sheet on iConnect - Additional details on the iConnect training concept.
  • Confirmation E-mail - Note the recommendation to send ahead the link to online beginners' tutorials before the workshop so participants can familiarize themselves with the self-teaching options that exist online.
  • iConnect Logo
  • Internet Safety & Security Handout (PDF) - Handout on Internet Safety & Security - This handout gives starting tips on security online along with resources for learning more.

 

iConnect: A New Approach to Digital Literacy

The iConnect program is a new approach to achieving statewide digital literacy that acts on two observations.

  1. Vermonters who haven’t used the Internet before, are being pushed online for the first time as essential information and services go to primarily online formats. These online activities include applying for jobs or unemployment benefits, Medicare enrollment, information and applications for state benefits, and participation in the planned healthcare exchange.
    Internet beginners now have a compelling reason to gain digital literacy skills, but many aren’t seeking help at traditional computer classes or workshops. Instead they are seeking assistance with a particular Internet need, such as filing for unemployment benefits or applying for a job; the underlying lack of digital literacy is a secondary issue for these learners. This trend is turning State Labor Offices, Community Action Programs, United Ways, libraries and other organizations into de facto Internet training centers. These organizations, faced with a new need to provide digital literacy instruction, are iConnect’s target audience.
  2. The Internet itself offers many great tools for learning basic skills. Beginners can teach themselves using online tutorials, as long as they have the threshold skills needed to access those online tutorials. The ability to impart these threshold skills is a key goal for iConnect participants.   

The iConnect: Skills for Working with Internet Beginners training is a three-hour workshop, with supporting materials, that helps participants:

  • Understand basic digital literacy & core Internet skills – the “threshold skills” for accessing further learning online.
  • Walk beginners through specific online tasks
  • Give beginners the resources they need for further learning

The goal is for participants to be able communicate effectively and efficiently with Internet beginners so that digital literacy will not be a barrier to providing other assistance. Part of this effective communication is helping beginners start on the path towards being digitally independent by imparting basic concepts and options for learning more. In this way, iConnect both improves immediate service to learners and contributes to overall digital literacy for Vermonters.

Digital literacy is just one component of ensuring that no Vermonter is left behind as vital information, communications, and activities move online. e-Vermont also provides information on how to create public Internet access within your community and how to design websites that are simple for beginners to navigate.

Learning Environment

Before providing instruction, especially group instruction, it’s important to think about the learning environment. When instructors from the Vermont State Colleges offer a remote training they ask a series of questions – found below.  Another e-Vermont partner, the Department of Libraries, is helping public libraries improve their spaces for digital learning.  Librarians interested in finding out more should contact their regional consultant.   

Location

  • Is the workshop room easy to find? (Bring signs/markers if needed)
  • Does the location have a “teaching environment” (cluster of computers, projector etc…)
  • Is there a fee or insurance documentation needed for using the location? How much?
  • Who is the contact at the facility? Will they be opening and locking the facility?
  • Is the location handicap accessible?

Equipment & Access

  • How many computers are available? Ideally everyone has a computer. At a minimum we recommend 3-5 computers, plus careful thinking about what can be done presentation-style and whether individual assistance sessions should be scheduled afterwards.
  • Are Internet filters or security settings turned on (eg for schools)? Can they be turned off? How?
  • Is wireless available? What is the passcode? Will some participants be bringing their own laptops?
  • Does the instructor know what kind of computers the participants use on a regular basis? 
  • Is an LCD projector available? Could one be made available and connected to a laptop?
  • Does the instructor need to bring their own projector and laptop?
  • What is the default operating system? Internet browser versions?
  • Does the instructor know what operating system the participants are most likely to use on their own?

Other Computer Settings

  • Is the font size big enough for students to read?
  • Is the contrast high enough?
  • Is the volume high enough?
  • Do students know how to use a mouse or trackpad? Adjustments for new users can include decreasing sensitivity, reducing clicking speed, increasing visibility of pointer. Extra practice can be found at sites like Mousercise.

Additional Resources - Teaching Digital Literacy

e-Vermont has designed iConnect materials to support the goals of:

  1. Walking Internet beginners through specific online tasks
  2. Starting Internet beginners on the process of exploring computer basics on their own, often with the help of an informal support network of friends, family and neighbors.

Other programs offer tools for different instructional goals, including more comprehensive digital literacy classes. Note that most of these sites include Spanish language translations for their materials:

  • DigitalLiteracy.gov is an online repository for a variety of digital literacy resources.
  • Broadband Rhode Island offers a network of training resources to connect all Rhode Island communities to the Internet and increase broadband adoption. BBRI is increasing the number of community trainers; their support materials for trainers and class resources can help anyone present a course of instruction in digital literacy.
  • Fast Forward New Mexico brings digital literacy to rural New Mexico through public and tribal libraries. They make their curriculum for trainers available online.
  • Tech Goes Home is a Boston-based program that connects learning technology to developing core skills for life, learning and work in the 21st century.
  • One Community's Connect Your Community program provides a variety of trainer-related tools, including curriculum modules and general best practices guides for trainers. 

The iConnect training was developed using resources on working with adult learners around any topic, not only digital literacy. To find out more try:

Creative Commons License

iConnect: Skills for Working with Internet Beginners is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.