At the beginning of 2021, the CTN staff was cautiously optimistic about what the year might hold. In many ways, the availability of vaccines — along with continued mask-wearing and distancing — helped us return to some sense of normalcy.
Return to In-Person Training
Over the summer, we went back to in-person classes for select groups of vaccinated learners. Since many of our partnerships began during the pandemic, their learners have only experienced remote programming. At the Center for Elders Independence (CEI), we even held virtual graduation ceremonies after each cohort — which involved a lot of shouting and celebrating over 30-person Zoom calls. Over a year after beginning our partnership, we were able to meet some of our learners face-to-masked-face! For senior program manager Sabrina Tam, this change was a welcome one: “I missed teaching in person so much. It’s much easier for me to see the learner’s screen and instruct them what to do as the next step. The learners could also easily help each other out!”
One major project this year was our partnership with Sourcewise. To combat social isolation and encourage connection, we distributed over 400 Google Home Speakers to older adults in the Bay Area. CTN staff members trained recipients how to use this voice-activated technology through customized video playlists, remote Q&A sessions, and webinars. Beyond the virtual, we were also able to hold in-person training events in multiple languages in San Jose and Gilroy. This mix of in-person and remote training opportunities made our partnership with Sourcewise a great success.
Expanded Training Services
As the year carried on and new variants of COVID-19 rose to prominence, we remained flexible amid the uncertainty — adapting to partner needs and reimagining our training models to accommodate a hybrid in-person/remote format. Along the way, we also expanded our training services to help build capacity for other organizations hoping to get their communities online.
In Texas, our Senior Connect program came into full swing with the collaborative efforts of Senior Access and AGE of Central Texas. The program secured initial funding to provide 150 older adults in Central Texas with home internet, a 10-inch Android tablet, and up to 17 hours of remote digital literacy training. From May to August, we successfully trained the first 50 seniors referred to the program. One of these learners, Patricia Blaine, used her tablet to explore creative interests, taking virtual piano lessons, posting singing videos to YouTube, and finding new recipes. Another learner, Karen Riley-Maiden, was so successful in the program that she became a trainer for other seniors.
Back in California, we began new partnerships with nonprofits, housing developments, and senior centers across the Bay Area. At Hamilton Families and the Mosaica Family Apartments, CTN instructors taught English- and Spanish-speaking adults how to use technology for job searching, resume writing, and assisting their children online. In collaboration with UCSF, we conducted over 100 outreach calls to older adult patients to ensure that they were able to use telehealth options during the pandemic. Towards the end of the year, we partnered with Lutheran Social Services to train Sacramento youth to use their tech skills to find jobs and write resumes.
Throughout the year, we evolved and expanded our virtual Home Connect program, first launched in April 2020 in response to the pandemic. Over a year later, Home Connect continues to train older learners from the safety and comfort of their homes. The program — originally available in four languages — is now offered in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Russian, Vietnamese, and Korean. We also broadened our pool of learners with the help of 50 referring agencies across San Francisco — including Glide, On Lok 30th Street Senior Center, and Calle 24.
Those Who Made It Possible
As the year draws to a close, we take pride in our accomplishments, adaptability, and growth. None of our successes would be possible without the generous support of our donors and funders. They made it possible for us to launch new partnerships, reach new populations, evaluate our programs, develop our curricula, and continue to offer the highest quality of digital literacy training to older adult and lower-income learners. We are also grateful for the countless volunteers who donated their time to CTN this year. Their dedicated efforts ensured that CTN learners felt supported to keep learning and exploring the digital world.
While there are too many highlights to mention in one recap, our activities were well documented, with over 100 blog posts published this year! We invite you to read stories of impact from our diverse community of learners, volunteers, and staff members — all of whom have a unique outlook on the importance of digital skills. Though 2021 wasn’t always smooth sailing, it marked a time of significant growth and change for CTN. We look forward to what’s in store as we enter a new year and remain grateful for everyone involved in helping us transform lives through digital literacy!