As technology becomes an important part of our daily lives, it is easy to take basic technical skills for granted.
Earlier this year students from Missouri State University did University of Economics identified the need for basic technological skills and access privileges for women who have recently emerged from domestic violence situations.
Now, Annice McLean and Dr. Ching-wen Chang, Faculty in the Missouri State Department of Reading, basics and technology (RFT) im Pedagogical college, volunteer to help women acquire the skills they need to get back on their feet.
Recognize a need
The project began as a task for MGT 440, leadership and development skills: to identify a need in the community and offer a solution.
Students focused their problem-solving skills on safe homes or places where women can find shelter and support after leaving a situation of domestic violence.
“This project found that there was a gap in the access to and use of technology,” said McLean. “This can be a hindrance for women to find employment and to continue their education.”
Van Oswald, one of the students on the project, reached out to the RFT department in hopes that they could volunteer their time to educate women in need in technology.
McLean and Chang were some of the first faculty members to hear about this project.
When they met with the Safe House Coordinator, they realized the need to limit the number of people involved in order to maintain the confidentiality of the women in the Safe House.
“We loved it and thought it was definitely a need. So we volunteered to be part of the project, ”said McLean.
A unique curriculum
The course McLean and Chang offer women is different from your typical introductory computer course.
“The goal was to develop a course that would meet the needs and goals of the individual,” said McLean.
The two teachers started with a list of basic information that they thought might be relevant to anyone new to computers.
As they started dating, they gained a better understanding of each woman’s specific needs.
“It could be anything from emails, how to hold a Zoom meeting, how to shop online, or lessons on safety,” said McLean. “It could even be about using online games to relieve stress or accessing homework pages to help kids learn online.”
The best they could do was create a flexible plan that could help any woman achieve her goals.
“They just want something that is relevant to them – they have to find a job, graduate from school, or manage their online banking,” said Chang. “So we’re changing the curriculum to help them do what they want to do.”
Teaching and learning
McLean and Chang use technology quite a lot in their work, but they could still relate to the struggle to learn new technologies. “I think back to the first time I had a Zoom meeting,” said McLean. “I was afraid it wouldn’t work.”
After working with the women several times during the semester, McLean and Chang felt that everyone was taking something away from class.
“I felt like we helped the women. I also felt like I gained something from them too – an appreciation for their attitude and their positive attitude, “said McLean.
McLean and Chang hope what they started doesn’t end here.
“I think our ultimate goal is to make it smoother for the ladies – more convenient for them and their schedules,” said McLean.
In the future they hope to be able to offer more permanent access to computers and the Internet. So far, they’ve borrowed Chromebooks from university for every session.
“When we finish class, we’ll go with the Chromebooks,” said Chang. “But if this continues, hopefully we can work on a grant to buy some.”
They also hope that their work will pay more attention to others who may have difficulty accessing technology or technological skills.
“When other people find out, maybe they will contact us and we could set up other opportunities for something similar,” said McLean.
Contact Dr. Ching-wen Chang for more information.
Contact Annice McLean for more information.