When Margaret Abdilova signed up for a community fund raising event two years ago, she hadn’t anticipated how much her high-tech career experience would affect the lives of San Francisco seniors.
She attended an event called Boomers & Beyond, where Kami Griffiths, CTN’s executive director, was speaking about Digital Literacy Corps, a CTN program that connects learners seeking new computer skills with skilled volunteers looking to contribute to their community.
At the time, Margaret was on the edge of retirement. After hearing about Digital Literacy Corps she realized how she could apply her years of software engineering experience in a new way. “It was a match made in heaven. It was magic,” she says.
One of the things about the program she enjoys is that Kami has given her the freedom to develop her own teaching program, courseware, and approach. “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people,” says Margaret. With this approach, she’s been able to tailor-fit her classes to the needs of her students. Her Russian-speaking students have all led rich professional lives. Many were engineers, doctors, pharmacists, and professors. Due to the language barrier, they have become intellectually isolated. “In my classes, it’s not about building job search skills, it’s about life enrichment. I’m not there to teach them typing, I’m there to make their lives more exiting.”
While consistent attendance is challenging (health issues and doctor’s appointments interfere), Margaret is striving to design self-contained learning experiences. One lesson staple is virtual travel. “Travel is not just about going places, it’s about planning and anticipation.” (Pictured above, Margaret shows learners how to plan a visit to Muir Woods National Monument) Margaret says, “It’s also not just ‘Look how I’m doing it on the screen,’ but I want my students to see the possibilities that the computer offers.”
Margaret said what she’s doing “is transforming what my students think they can do with a laptop into something real. My students are gaining the skills to be engaged and be informed, to be connected. I’m looking to widen their horizons and help them to live a richer, intellectually stimulating life.”