I taught a computer basics class last night. Basic as in “let’s locate the monitor, mouse, keyboard, and computer tower.” Basic as in “let’s all push the mouse along the table and watch what happens to the arrow on the screen.” And you know what, it was amazing!
It’s easy to begin believing that everyone knows and loves the computer when most of your social environment and coworkers do. At MPOW all students are given high quality ThinkPads and are expected to use them in a variety of ways for their classes. This culture means whenever we do something for the web, we can do it with the expectation that everyone in our community has access to and understands, say, PDF files. As I’ve moved further and further into this mindset, it’s become easier to assume a certain baseline skill set for everyone. Assuming that baseline skill set means that all the talk about “democratization of information” or the fact that “everyone can publish” really rings true. But in reality, there are so many people who don’t have access to the technology, don’t know how to use the computer enough to access information or publish it themselves.
So, when I started missing my activism (I did a lot with animal rights, the peace movement, and gender issues in college), I started thinking about what areas made the most sense for me to focus on today. Of course, I still care about (and work for) the issues that I cared about in college, but for the place that I am at today, and the assumptions I bring to the table, I knew that the area I was most concerned with is computer literacy. Teaching these classes makes the most sense for me at this point in time.
They’re fun, too! It’s easy to forget how the internet is really exciting when it becomes a day-to-day thing. People’s eyes really light up when they can use it. At this point in time, I can’t wait for the next class.