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Internet Literacy for Spanish-Speaking Employees

Figuring out the intricacies of the Internet can be difficult for people with limited computer experience. The challenge is even more daunting for non-native speakers of English who are new to the net.

Ramiro Oliva, Monica Mendoza, and David Sangurima, employees in the University’s Office of Information Technology Services and members of Latino/as at Boston College a faculty/staff organization dedicated to promoting the interests of the BC Latino community, decided to try to tackle the problem. They developed and taught a pilot Internet literacy class, in Spanish, for Spanish-speaking service employees.

“My mission was to make the class practical so students can use this knowledge in their day to day life,” says Oliva, who devised the course curriculum. Six dining services employees signed up for the intensive session, which met twice a week for eight weeks in Campion Hall.  

Oliva gave lectures during each class on topics such as e-mail basics, conducting online transactions like banking and bill paying, and using the BC intranet to check benefits and input timesheets. Mendoza and Sangurima offered additional personalized attention. 

The Internet is not all about business, of course, and the trio taught students how to use communications tools like Skype and Facebook, and introduced them to popular entertainment sites like Hulu and Pandora.

“One of my main goals was to help them speak the same technological language their kids speak,” says Oliva. “Just by being young, kids can pick up the language really quick. For the parents, it’s a completely different experience.”

Oliva and his team hope to continue offering the literacy course at Boston College, and possibly even expand it. “Some of this knowledge is missing not only in the Latino community, but in others, including among English speakers,” he observes.

Tim Czerwienski