Applications & Education

Form an Education Committee

Almost every Connecting Communities project can benefit from establishing an Education Committee. Connecting Community teams can develop educational projects that range from news articles or community events to increase awareness about the benefits of broadband service, small group hands-on training on using the Internet and one-on-one sessions for key individuals that will help individuals and organizations understand the benefits broadband services hold for them and improve their ability to use the technology. It is important to note that educational projects focus on how individuals and organizations can use the technology as tools to meet their needs. Programs should be structured to meet individuals where they are in their journey into the Information Age.

Education Committee Tasks

  • Conduct an assessment to determine existing Information Technology (IT) training opportunities available in the community. The assessment should include information about the organization providing the training, the skill level necessary to participate in the training and cost. Maintain contact with these organizations as the education plan is developed. A good approach is to provide training that introduces participants to the technology and productivity tools and prepares them for the more advanced training often provided by technical schools and colleges.
  • Identify training topics that meet the needs of individuals and organizations. Popular topics that help beginners learn how to use the tools and identify how technology can benefit them include: surfing the Web, email, and website development.
  • Identify individuals with IT skills who could volunteer to conduct the training. Be creative. Your volunteer pool should include professional IT workers and professional educators as well as individuals who use the tools in their work or personal life. They may be retired seniors or high school students.
  • Search online for the needed skills training as many resources are already available either live or archived on the internet.
  • Coordinate the training schedule with the Community Center facilities if one is available and able to support this effort.
  • Get the word out.

Potential Education Projects

Community Awareness

Community projects provide the opportunity for community leaders to positively influence the community's future economic quality of life. Community awareness programs should be designed to increase awareness in at least three areas:

  1. The impact of digital technologies on current and future jobs, education and training opportunities, healthcare, business opportunities, government and social services as well as recreation
  2. The benefits and opportunities digital technology provides to individuals, businesses and organizations
  3. Opportunities for individuals to get involved in Connecting Communities projects

This information can be delivered in many venues including special community-wide meetings, events for key community leaders and presentations at community organization meetings such as service clubs, Chamber of Commerce, senior citizen meetings and local government meetings.

These meetings should include a combination of presentation, show and tell, small group discussion and when possible, hands-on activities. Try and actively involve the participants as much as possible. In addition to increasing awareness about the opportunities afforded by digital technology, these educational events provide a way to gather additional project ideas, identify key volunteers who can help with additional projects and obtain valuable information that can be used to move projects along more rapidly. These sessions might also identify situations or individuals who may slow down the connecting communities initiative but provide valuable information about important areas to address.

Productivity Tool Training

Computers, the Internet, and productivity software provide a wealth of opportunities to increase personal, business and government productivity, expand markets for products and services, gather and process information, help individuals learn new skills or improve on existing skills and create new economic opportunities in a community. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the population in many communities either doesn't have access to these tools or doesn't know how they can benefit from them.

Computer RoomConnecting Communities projects can be implemented to provide training on the use of computers, access to the Internet and productivity software (browsers, word processing, spreadsheets, web site development software, presentation software, etc.) The training should focus on the needs of those being trained, not the technology. This level of education shouldn't be trying to train people to design, manufacture, or repair computers. We all use tools called cars to improve our lives. Few of us fully understand how they work and even less know how to fix them when they break. We use cars to improve our quality of life and economic well-being.

The training should be hands-on and free or low cost. Use the training facilities in the local schools or other public access facilities and ask volunteers to conduct the training sessions. Search the Internet for training resources not currently available in your community. The Internet and a browser are great introductory training tools. As individuals find they can find information on just about any topic and stay in touch with friends and family across the world they quickly forget they are learning to use a computer and technology. Classes on word processing, spreadsheets, email, web site development software and presentation software can be offered next as the demand rises.

Keep in mind many of the individuals may be novice computer users. Keep the focus on how the tools can help them meet their needs. Use the KISS method. Most beginners and even intermediate users don't need to know all of the features of a software package. Teach what is needed to accomplish the task they are interested in learning. Don't spend any more time than necessary on how the hardware works. Have the participants turn on the computer, run the mouse and use the keyboard. Hands-on means the learner's hands are on the computer. Not the instructors!

Targeted Programs

Organizations in Connected Communities use information technology effectively and efficiently to communicate, produce, deliver and access information and services. Training programs can also be offered as part of the Connecting Communities project to increase the ability of stakeholder groups in the community, to explore the benefits of and learn how to adopt information technology tools. Although some of these programs may not be free, they can be offered at a greatly reduced cost at times and locations convenient for the stakeholders.

For years, big business has used information technology to research, develop, manage, and evaluate products, services, and markets. Now, small businesses can too! Small businesses commonly use accounting software; with training, they can add additional tools to make or save money. The Internet can be used to research their competition, locate suppliers of products and services, interact with state and federal governments, market the products and services across the world and conduct business with other businesses (B2B). Community projects should provide educational programs to help small business owners learn how to benefit from the information technology.

The National e-Commerce Extension Initiative provides many resources for businesses interested in increasing online activity. Over a dozen courses are available including topics such as beginner's guide to e-commerce, website basics, marketing food specialties online and data security. Visit the initiative web site or contact your local Extension staff to learn more about these offerings.

The Education committee should survey the business community to determine how they are using information technology and identify types of training that should be offered through the Connecting Communities Project. Search the Internet for on-line resources that can be used to meet business needs and work with the local Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers, local colleges and other organizations that provide education and training to determine how the training can be delivered.