The rewards of teaching beginners
At Byte Back, my favorite class to teach is Personal Computing for Beginners (PCB) in Spanish, because I love introducing students to tools that are relevant to their daily lives. In ways that many people today take for granted, technology like email and an Internet search engine can revolutionize tasks like communicating with friends and family or traveling from one part of the city to another. To supplement standard aspects of the curriculum such as email (correo electrónico) and copy and paste (copiar y pegar), I work hard to educate my students about resources that are applicable to their everyday needs. For example, I dedicate one lesson to answering a list of questions using a sheet of “Websitios útiles e interesantes,” websites dedicated to topics including health services, public transportation, and current events. Yet while it is exciting to share these tools with students, I often wonder whether they are adopting technology outside of the classroom and integrating it into their lives. Last week, one of my students gave me one of the best rewards a teacher can hope for with a story about how she had done just that. In response to my explanation of how to save information by sending an email to one’s own address, she exclaimed, “Ah, yo hice esto ayer!” implying that she had already used this technique on her own. To further explain, she showed me an email that she had sent to herself with directions that she had copied and pasted from the D.C. Metro website. I was elated: my student had used a technique, copy and paste, and a resource, www.wmata.com, that she had learned about in class to meet a need that arose outside of the classroom. As she described how the site had helped her get where she needed to go, other students nodded in confirmation, indicating that they would consider doing the same. This moment illustrates what is ultimately the best part of teaching PCB: as rewarding as it is to share information with students, the best part of a beginners’ class is when students begin to share information with each other.
– Carolyn Kraemer, Byte Back AmeriCorp Instructor