UNC’s Community Workshop Series (CWS)

By Rachael Brittain

Managing our day to day lives is becoming increasingly difficult without the use of modern technology. However, approximately 32 million people in the United States do not have the skills to confidently navigate and utilize computers [1]. Computer skills are increasingly fundamental in K-12 schools, with much of a child’s educational experience built around technology and internet use. Adults who did not have the benefit of learning these skills while they were young are experiencing an increasing digital divide between themselves and the younger generation. That said, this issue is not limited to one demographic. As technology continues to evolve everyone requires continual education and assistance to remain digitally literate. The Community Workshop Series (CWS) works to close the digital divide and provide assistance to those in our community who are learning computer fundamentals for the first time and those looking to expand their current knowledge.

Learning to use technology and building essential skills can be difficult without the proper resources. Investing in digital literacy benefits not only the individual but the community. Being able to access computers and the internet increases a community’s civic engagement and people use technology to search for information about their local government; public transportation options; information about voting and upcoming elections; new economic opportunities; and most companies require an online application from prospective employees. The internet reduces the amount of time spent searching for a job and makes it easier to see what positions are available. A basic level of computer literacy is a common job expectation, and an online presence increases visibility for small businesses. Healthcare providers are increasing their use of online forms for patients and online portals are used to create appointments and connect doctors with their patients [2]. Local and global news resources are widely available online, making finding and evaluating this information more critical than ever. These resources and opportunities are cut off for those lacking computer skills.

The Community Workshop Series works with local libraries to host classes to increase digital literacy in the community. University students volunteer to teach classes that provide basic tech skills and computer fundamentals; internet searching, how to use programs, online job searching, evaluating online sources, email basics, smartphones, Google applications, and more based on community needs. Through direct interaction with the community, CWS continuously adjust classes to ensure they are valuable to participants and responsive to their needs. Recently, CWS has been able to begin offering computer basics courses in Spanish to better serve the surrounding community in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. CWS serves the community through digital literacy and improving information access and provides local university students with an opportunity for service learning. Students teach classes, help develop and update curriculum, and work directly with communities to help close the digital divide.

To learn more about the Community Workshop Series or volunteer opportunities, please visit our website https://cws.web.unc.edu/ or contact us directly at silscommunityworkshopseries@gmail.com or rbritta@ad.unc.edu.


Citations

[1] Kendall Latham, “Empower Communities to Strengthen Their Digital Literacy Skills,” Dell Technologies Social Impact Blog, June 27, 2022. https://www.dell.com/en-us/blog/empower-communities-to-strengthen-their-digital-literacy-skills/

[2] Colorado State Library, “Benefits of a Digitally Literate Community,” (infographic), 2013. https://www.maine.gov/msl/libs/tech/diglit/benefits.pdf


Rachael Brittain is the Coordinator of CWS and a second year Library Science student with a concentration in Archives and Records Management at UNC’s School of Library and Information Science. She has an interest in material preservation and community engagement. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Metropolitan State University of Denver. Any spare moments are spent reading, listening to music, and hiking.


Edited by Jo Kwon

Featured Image: CWS Logo. Photo Credit: Jess Epsten