“I’m absolutely, stunningly lost,” Brault said in a round of introductions at the West Seattle Senior Center’s monthly computer class in early October. The computer room, filled with eager students, came to learn the basics of how to operate a tablet. Emily Lynch and Orlando Lugo are the instructors for the classes as part of a partnership with The Seattle Public Library. In class, they started with the basics like scrolling, clock app functions, and taking photos.
“Most of my photos are of my feet,” Brault told her classmates. “I can never figure out how to make it stop taking photos,” she said with a laugh.
Each student named something they’d like to learn to help shape the curriculum in the 90-minute class. Buying tickets online, using the map function, building and sharing a grocery lists, and how to play a podcast were a few of the requests.
The Burke Dykes Computer Center, named after the long-time volunteer who both developed the idea for the computer lab and secured funding, has a bevy of topics that are covered each month. Computer basics, email basics, and how to use social media are the popular classes that reoccur. More advanced classes like learning smart phones, online self-defense, navigating the news, and even introduction to iMovie are on the roster as well.
“We like to rotate them around and introduce new subjects along with the old standard classes,” said Cherie Schumacher, who runs the program at the Senior Center. “They can also drop in with computer issues or make an appointment to speak with someone about a specific issue.”
The lab is funded in part, through a Technology Matching Fund grant. The City of Seattle commits to awarding the grants each year as part of its focus on improving digital equity in Seattle. The grants provide funds of up to $50,000 each year to projects that work to close the digital divide. In other words, eliminating the gap between demographics that have access to modern information and communications technology. The applicants must match the funds with contributions of volunteer labor, materials, professional services, or cash.
The West Seattle Senior Center has received the grants in 2001, 2009, and most recently in 2017. Initially, they used the grant funding to set up the computer lab. This year’s $13,397 grant funded printers, cables, toner, paper, and other supplies for the computer center. The Center will provide this service free to the public. Although mostly seniors attend, the classes are open to anyone.
For Brault, it was her first class, but she plans on attending more. Now that the class has helped her master the new-to-her tablet, her technology possibilities are wide open.