A Teacher Helps Residents Bridge the Digital Divide
Ritzdorf Court apartment residents who attend computer classes in their building are doubly fortunate. Not only do they get to build technology skills in the Ritzdorf’s free computer lab – they get to learn from Ed Reilly. Ed’s background in software training makes him a natural to lead REACH’s no-fee computer classes for residents. But he’s not just teaching. “It’s been a real education for me, too,” said Ed. “My picture of what people need from technology has really broadened.”
Ed has trained students from many backgrounds, from CEO’s to manufacturing workers learning English as a second language. “I thought I’d kind of seen it all,” said Ed. But while his other students usually had specific business needs or were looking to take that next step in their careers, “the people I was training at the Ritzdorf were just looking to connect and to understand the world around them.” Ed estimates that only about 30% of his students at the Ritzdorf, which is a REACH property for formerly homeless individuals, have had any previous experience with computers. Still, they’re eager to reconnect online with people with whom they’ve lost touch.
Ed has stepped in to form remarkably successful partnerships with his students. “How I taught and what I taught changed based on what they needed,” he said. Another key to their success? “Lots of repetition!” And many of Ed’s students pay him the ultimate compliment, returning to repeat classes in order to keep their skills sharp.
Ed is encouraged by how readily his students have applied their new skills. “Some of them are on Facebook now,” he said, and have reconnected with children, family and friends. Ed’s students even find him online to chat from time to time. He’s well aware that individuals with low incomes such as the residents of the Ritzdorf are often stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide, so he’s all the more pleased to see how fully they’ve embraced the online world. “It’s so pervasive in our culture now, and they want to get it,” he said.
Ed grew up volunteering with his family and has been drawn to REACH and its mission. Now he’s looking to expand his computer curriculum to other REACH properties, too. Thanks to you, Ed, now even more of REACH’s residents can look forward to building a better future on the other side of the digital divide.