Recently, I told a group of former college classmates, “I went to college before Big Data.” The shift towards a data- and tech-driven society accelerates every day. Unfortunately, this acceleration often happens without regard for individuals who live without access to technology training and affordable hardware. Community Tech Network (CTN) seeks to bridge this ever-widening digital divide in its teaching and in its provision of hardware to traditionally underserved communities.
I came to CTN in 2015 as a volunteer seeking to help the elderly. I spent two years as a volunteer and subsequently worked as a bilingual digital literacy instructor. For a further two years, I taught elementary and intermediate computer and tablet curricula in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and English on-site at affordable and low-income housing associates throughout the Bay Area.
Several years ago, at the end of a class I taught in Mandarin Chinese, an elderly student was kind enough to deliver a speech she had written for the occasion. In her speech, she noted the challenges all the students in the class had faced, including racial discrimination and the shock of adapting to American society later in life. She concluded with her gratitude that we had come to teach them at their place of residence with curriculum and resources in their native Chinese. In another class, a student who had graduated from our Computer Basics class did a celebratory Nigerian dance to mark this moment of achievement in learning for her cohort.
I’m proud that CTN acts as a resource for these and many more learners, promotes education as a lifelong undertaking, and finds the happy medium between a life lived before Big Data and a life after. I’m proud we were able to spark some joy in the lives of the people who share our communities. I wish CTN’s learners well on their digital journeys, click by click, web page by web page! Thank you for the wisdom and stories you have shared, for the good humor and fun, and for teaching me over and over again that age is never a true barrier to human connection and hope.