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Local program attempts to narrow the digital divide

California Connects class teaches computer basics, Internet use, email
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The first class begins with the instructor explaining the difference between software and hardware.

Instructor Victor Alvarez also teaches the adult students about flash drives, how to use a laptop's mouse and he points out the USB connection. By the end of the fifth and final class, students will have created an email account, completed Google searches, learned how to sign up for broadband service and much more.

The goal of this free program, offered by California Connects, is to educate low-income and Spanish-speaking residents in Placer County about computers and the Internet, and increase their digital literacy and access to broadband technology.

This effort to close the "Internet gap" has become a common effort among Roseville's public libraries system and the Roseville Joint Union High School District (see sidebar below).

"An 'Internet gap' exists for any individual who does not have access to the Internet," said Joyce Lude, principal of Roseville Adult School. "Language can be a barrier, but other barriers are lack of computer skills or access to computers."

California Connects was developed from the partnership of two nonprofit organizations, the Foundation for California Community Colleges and the Great Valley Center. The goal of this program is to narrow the digital divide that exists throughout 18 counties in the Central Valley, Alvarez said.

"(There is) an increasing gap between those who know how to navigate in the technological world and those who do not," he said.

Alvarez, a community trainer for California Connects, holds free training sessions for adults at the Downtown Roseville Library.

He teaches basic computer skills, computer components, terminology and use, basic word processing, email, creating a resume and navigating the Internet for educational, health and economic purposes.

California Connects started its third series of classes on June 25, which runs twice weekly through July 13. The classes will then start over for new students. This program is federally funded through 2013 and will be offered locally as long as there's interest, Alvarez said.

Seven people have gone through the program. Alvarez teaches the class bilingually so students get familiar with basic computer and Internet terminology in English.

Alvarez asks students what they're most interested in learning and the answer is typically how to job search, so he teaches tools for looking for jobs, applying online and posting resumes. Some retirees want to learn about buying and selling on eBay. Students also set up email accounts.

"We talk about all the things you need an email account for because everything is pretty much email-driven in our society," Alvarez said.

He also covers day-to-day Internet use such as making appointments at the Department of Motor Vehicles or using Skype to communicate with relatives. Alvarez said he's found that students are hesitant to try online banking.

Students also learn about logging onto library computers, searching for books and the benefits of having a library card. Roseville Librarian Natasha Casteel said it's critical that people today know how to use computers and the Internet. Plus, local libraries are trying to better serve Roseville's Spanish-speaking residents.

"Programming for our Hispanic community is vastly underserved for us," Casteel said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Closing the 'Internet gap'

Roseville Adult School will offer a free open computer lab from 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays during the upcoming school year.

The school will also offer classes - for a cost of $20 to $55 - on computer phobias, email use, advanced Microsoft Office Suite and more. Roseville Adult School is located at 200 Branstetter St. For more information, call (916) 782-3952 or visit www.rjuhsd.us/rosevilleadult.

Roseville Joint Union High School District offers Roseville Connected, a free 20-hour class for parents of students in the district. The program, which requires a referral, covers introductory computer skills, the Internet and how to access HomeLink, the parent portal for grades. For more information, visit http://eldroseville.net.

~ Sena Christian

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California Connects computer and Internet class

What: Low-income and Spanish speaking adults in Placer County are eligible to enroll in free computer classes teaching the basics of using the Internet and email.

When: 5-6:45 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays

Where: Downtown Roseville Library, 225 Taylor St.

Info: To register, call Victor Alvarez at (866) 325-3222, ext. 230 or (916) 872-5044.