This article was written by Domenic Laurenzi, an Internet Intern who works at  the Dailey Memorial Library in Derby and the Goodrich Library in Newport. He is currently pursuing his associate degree in Applied Business Practices at CCV.

Domenic, one of our Internet Interns, teaches Pat how to use a computer

When I first started as an Internet Intern, I had no idea about the impact that I could have or the lives that I would touch. Because I am proficient with the Internet and know how a computer works, it didn’t occur to me that some people would not understand how these devices operated or even know how to perform a simple Google search. Over the past few months of work at both the Dailey Memorial Library in Derby and the Goodrich Library in Newport, however, I have discovered how pervasive digital illiteracy can seem, though I am doing my part to lessen this.

On a Monday last December, a wonderful woman came into the Goodrich library looking for some help. She wanted to learn how to operate a computer so that she would be able to see pictures of her grandchildren on Facebook. I asked her if she knew what Facebook was and she replied “No, I was told I need a Facebook to see pictures of the grandkids.” After explaining that she wouldn’t necessarily need Facebook if her only goal was to see pictures of her loved ones, we got started. This pleasant woman’s name is Pat, and this was the first time she had ever used a computer. We first went over basics: the power button, mouse, keyboard, desktop, and browser. Then we began to find a way for her to see pictures of her grandchildren.

Since Pat’s main goal was to use the computer to see photos, we both decided that an e-mail account would be best, but only after I had explained what e-mail was. As we got started, I told Pat to open up the browser, so she touched the screen. We eventually set her up with a Gmail account, but while filling out the form to set it up, Pat repeatedly touched the screen. I had to remind her that it wasn’t a touch screen and that she had to use the mouse.

Setting up Pat’s Gmail was the easy part. Next, it was time for Pat to learn how to use her new email account. All of the things that I take for granted, such as sending and receiving emails, opening an email and downloading attached pictures, and attaching a picture to an email, can seem like impossible tasks for those not familiar with today’s technology. As practice, I sent Pat a few e-mails from my own account, some with pictures others with just text. After a few tries, Pat began to get the hang of it.

After a few lessons and a ton of poking the screen, Pat decided she liked the computer, and especially liked being able to view photos that her family could send her. Pat was so hooked that she wanted a laptop of her own. We discussed this, and because of her constant desire to touch the screen, we decided that a tablet would be best. She got in touch with her son, who suggested she get an Android tablet. We did some research online and found a great deal on a brand new Samsung Galaxy Tablet at Best Buy.

Pat picked up her new tablet that same day, and came to see me the following day, looking very excited. She came in, beaming and ready to get started! I had sent her a picture message of Radio City Music Hall the night before so I could teach her how to open the message, save it, and then look at the picture in her gallery. After setting up her tablet, she quickly caught onto the elegant ease with which she could check her Gmail. One thing Pat kept doing was poking or touching the tablet screen with so much force that it didn’t register all of the touches she would make. I finally reminded her that “nobody likes to be poked.” That lesson has stuck with her and she now passes on this wisdom on to other library patrons.

Pat has come a long way, since I met her during the first week of December. Not only does she now have a tablet, but she has also convinced her daughter and husband, both of whom had never used a computer before, to purchase them as well. Her daughter bought a bigger Samsung Galaxy tablet, and her husband just bought a laptop. He prefers the bigger screen, and wants to hook his laptop up to the television. Pat and her whole family are now coming to my computer classes at both libraries and are having a great time learning how to do everything from check email, to perform proper Google searches, play games, and shop. Fishing is actually what hooked Pat’s husband, as he discovered that he was able to check out all of the new fishing gear from stores he liked to shop at from the comfort of his own home.

Using their new knowledge of technology, Pat and her husband were able to watch their son and his kids open presents at Christmas, while talking with them over Skype; something that they never thought would be possible or even knew existed only twenty days before.