Why San Jose Kids Do Homework in Parking Lots

When the F.C.C. backs telecommunications companies over local governments, low-income residents suffer the most.

By Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, CA
New York Time Opinion, November 8, 2018

More than 10.7 million low-income households in the United States lack access to quality internet service. In cities like San Jose, Calif., local governments are using streetlight poles to facilitate equitable access to high-speed internet to dramatically improve educational outcomes for low-income students and expand economic opportunity for their families. Unfortunately, a recent mandate by the Federal Communications Commission might halt the progress made by these cities.

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The Unknown Costs of the Digital Divide

Iowa: Rural broadband, and the unknown costs of the digital divide

By Lyz Lenz, October 15, 2018, Columbia Journalism Review

“Despite bipartisan support on the issue, the crisis of America’s digital divide has failed to become a headline grabber or garner any real action from politicians as midterms approach.”

The last time I almost died was in February. A late winter thaw had made me overconfident in the roads, and so I’d gone out in search of an abandoned pioneer church just outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. One hour into the journey and I was stuck on a dirt road, my Mazda caught in an icy rut as sleet came down in sheets. There was no one around for miles. My phone, which has the fanciest data plan Verizon can muster, had no service, no data. I couldn’t see any houses. There was no one to hear me scream. Read more …

Critical Thinking & Digital Problem Solving

by Gloria  E. Jacobs, Ph.D., Research Specialist, College of Education, University of Arizona: Brian Kane is the Digital Literacy Coordinator at Literacy Volunteers of Rochester. The Digital Literacy program at LVR provides a free drop-in service where individuals can learn basic computer skills or get assistance completing  computer-essential tasks. This service is provided by volunteers who work one-to-one with learners. Brian read our blog and asked, “What’s the difference between critical thinking and problem solving? Or, are they essentially the same thing?”   Read more …

Mayor Celebrates New Partnership

Mayor Lovely A. Warren hosted a news conference on July 30 to celebrate Literacy Volunteers of Rochester’s (LVR) new partnership with Spectrum/Charter Communications.

Spectrum News Report 

WROC Channel 8 News Report 

Spectrum awarded LVR a $50,000 Spectrum NYS Broadband Access and Learning Grant. The contribution allows the agency to extend its Digital Literacy program. The program is a free one-to-one drop-in service to individuals interested in learning basic computer skills or completing computer-essential tasks. The grant will support digital services at Arnett, Frederick Douglass, Phillis Wheatley and Gates libraries.

Joining Mayor Warren for Monday’s announcement was Robert Mahar, Executive Director, Literacy Volunteers of Rochester; Rodney Capel, Vice President of Government Affairs, Charter Communications; and Patty Uttaro, Director, Monroe County Library System.

Rochester: A bright light I proudly call my new home

Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective to better capture reality. As I come to the close of my first year in Rochester, I have developed a strong affection and appreciation for the greater Rochester community and all that it has to offer as a premier place to live, work and ultimately prosper. My wife, Nancy, and I have been warmly welcomed as newcomers, and we both are proud to call this community our home.

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Declining Majority of Online Adults Say the Internet Has Been Good for Society

At the same time, the contours of connectivity are shifting: One-in-five Americans are now ‘smartphone only’ internet users at home

Americans tend to view the impact of the internet and other digital technologies on their own lives in largely positive ways, Pew Research Center surveys have shown over the years. A survey of U.S. adults conducted in January 2018 finds continuing evidence of this trend, with the vast majority of internet users (88%) saying the internet has, on balance, been a mostly good thing for them personally.

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Digital Divide Persists Even as Lower-Income Americans Make Gains in Tech Adoption

From Pew Research Center Fact Tank Blog by Monica Anderson

Nearly 30 years after the debut of the World Wide Web, internet use, broadband adoption and smartphone ownership have grown rapidly for all Americans – including those who are less well off financially. But even as many aspects of the digital divide have narrowed over time, the digital lives of lower- and higher-income Americans remain markedly different.

Roughly three-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone. Nearly half don’t have home broadband services or a traditional computer. And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. By comparison, many of these devices are nearly ubiquitous among adults from households earning $100,000 or more a year.  Read the full article

Two ways you can shrink the Divide
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Digital Divide Spurs Demand for Volunteers

An explosion in demand for computer help has led to a critical shortage of volunteers who work to meet the need. Digital Literacy, which places volunteers in local libraries to help patrons learn basic computer skills and complete computer-essential tasks, is experiencing an ever-increasing demand for its services.

“Over the last three years,” says program coordinator Brian Kane, “we’ve gone from serving 600 people to nearly 3,500. There is a huge Digital Divide in the Rochester area. Our program relies heavily on volunteers, and we need more volunteers to help.”  

Digital Literacy trains volunteers and places them in local libraries, where they assist patrons in learning basic computer skills like navigating the web or using Word. They also help patrons complete computer-essential tasks, like creating online accounts, developing resumes, searching for jobs and getting social services.

According to the U.S. Census, about 20% (twenty percent) of Rochester households do not have computers. For the town of Greece, that number is nearly 11% (eleven percent).

Digital Literacy places and supports volunteers in 10 locations around the county. Volunteers need 3 years of experience on a PC, knowledge of Google and its apps, an ability to work with diverse people, patience and flexibility.

Tom’s Big Heart

“Experiencing students’ incremental successes, gains in confidence, and engagement in life is what I valued most as a university educator.”

“That same path of accomplishment is true with adult learning, though student and tutor may meet only a couple of hours each week. I have been given the privilege of working with so many wonderful people. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to help a stroke victim realize his math skills were not diminished, just rusty – then pass a tool-and-dye company test and be asked to join the firm; or help a student with health challenges format her life story, “Sarah Never Gives Up” – a title she created; or work for 12 years with a gentleman who did not read or write because of a disability with word memory, as he learned to read phonetically and pursue interest in his family’s history.

“Other students want to become digitally literate—learn to keyboard proficiently, navigate websites to search for information, apply for work, learn English-as-a-Second-Language and get news from their native country. Rochester is so fortunate in its new Digital Literacy Program, in which I volunteer, which addresses digital needs at sites throughout the city. I’ve learned to be a better teacher and person from program coordinators, fellow tutors, and the students themselves. The human dimension of tutoring—insights, interpretations, finding practices that work—is surprising and humbling.

“Helping, however modestly, to fund adult literacy is another aspect of giving back. Literacy Volunteers is legitimate—certified by the State Department of Education. And, having been a member of a Literacy Voluntees Board of Directors (in Ithaca), I know how limited and fragile annual budgets are – statements of probable hope! Giving annually and at fundraisers helps sustain facility expenses, utilities, lean staffing, training, student intake and testing, education resources, basic supplies, and occasional initiatives.

Those are the reasons I engage with adult literacy—and that turns out to be quite a selfish act. For a few hours a week and some disposable income, I receive back so much more!”

Tom Weiler is a retired Cornell university professor. He recently became a LVR tutor and Digital literacy volunteer navigator. Previously, Tom served as a board member and tutor for the Literacy Volunteers program in Ithaca, New York.

Follow Tom’s example

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Eric’s Story

“Digital Literacy volunteers are phenomenal.”

Eric chuckles when he recalls his jail cell. “I had books stacked everywhere on my bed. I spent all my time reading about careers and work, and preparing mentally to get out and get better.”

He eventually left that cell behind, strongly motivated by his hopes and dreams. While living at a halfway house, Eric realized, “I needed to rebuild my life from the ground up.”

Although he was able to get a part-time contract job with the help of a friend, he said it just wasn’t enough. Eric discovered Digital Literacy during a visit to Lincoln Branch Library on Joseph Avenue in Rochester. He spotted the Computer Help Sign and introduced himself to a Digital Literacy volunteer navigator.

The navigator and Empire State College intern, Tricia, worked closely with Eric. By the end of their first session, Eric had a new resume and email account, had applied for several jobs, and explored websites for SUNY schools and civil service jobs.

Over the following months, Tricia and Eric continued working together. Eric learned new computer skills, applied for more jobs, and researched careers. He obtained a Lifeline cell phone, received a driver’s permit and will soon get his license. He also acquired two jobs.

Best of all, Eric now has options. He lives in a home of his choosing, and has decided on a career path. He will be starting Sterile Processing Technician classes at Rochester Educational Opportunity Center in a few months. “I want to be excellent and irreplaceable, so I’m going to study hard and throw everything I have into this career.”

While he trains, Eric will continue working at Community Lutheran Ministries. And, he’s organized a “Board of Directors” for his life. One of the members of his board is Tricia.

“Digital Literacy volunteers are phenomenal, willing to share their talents, and very much appreciated. I plan to continue to use their services, and highly recommend others use them as well.”

Give others the chance to change their own story.

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