Computers Are a Path to the New Literacy for Poor

A century ago it was saws and sewing machines, now it's computers, but teaching low-income people to improve their lot through technology is a constant at Erie Neighborhood House on Chicago's Near West Side.

With 60 computers online, and classes running nights and Saturdays, the long-established social service agency is on the front line fighting to close the digital divide that separates poor and minority families from the middle class.

GAMING is a big part of the process. Gaming teaches how to evaluate information," said Jenny Levine, Internet specialist for the American Library Association. "It teaches how to handle large sets of data, filter results, navigate information. You take in a lot of real-time information, process it and strategize. These are the same skills that businesses need."

Many games are commercial entertainment products, said Levine, but some are produced specifically to enhance information skills.

"At Arizona State University, librarians created a game where the campus is under quarantine with a virus, and you have 30 minutes to get the information you need to save your friend's life," said Levine.
While librarians are comfortable learning by reading text, said Levine, they recognize that most young people learn more through experiences than they do by reading. Chicago Trib has the story.

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