Clarksville, TN – Forget your cell phone, your tablet or any other mobile device, and try to imagine that you’re sitting at a desktop computer for the very first time. How do you use the mouse? What is the “F1” button for on the keyboard? How do you access the Internet?
“Technology has been pervasive in my life since kindergarten, so there’s a lot of things about computers that we take for granted,” Blake Crozier, an Austin Peay State University computer science student, said. “Things that we intuitively understand have to be taught with sensitivity to many senior citizens.”
Last year, Crozier decided he wanted to teach computer literacy to this portion of the population, so with some help from APSU’s Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement, he developed the University’s first computer-science, service-learning course.
“We work closely with faculty to plan service-learning courses that complement the work students are doing in the classroom,” Alexandra Wills, the center’s director, said. “Some programs are easier to develop courses for, such as having foreign language students make bilingual business directories, while programs such as computer science require a little more creativity.”
The center was able to work out an agreement with Fieldstone Place Assisted Living Facility so that Crozier could spend last spring teaching software, hardware and cyber security to senior citizens. He visited the facility’s library once a week, teaching the residents what they needed to know to safely and successfully operate a computer.
“I had pretty lofty goals, but it became apparent there was a need to touch on fundamentals,” he said. “But people wanted to learn. They wanted to be able to access information, whether it was photos of grandchildren, information about medication. Eventually, once we got some of the core skills, we started putting the skills to use on the web.”
Dr. Joseph Elarde, assistant professor of computer science, encouraged Crozier to pursue an independent study, service-learning class, because the APSU student would be helping his community while earning two credit hours toward his degree. And, the class gave him real-world experience that he can now include on his resume.
“It made me more aware of the challenges web developers face,” Crozier said. “They want to make products accessible to the largest number of people. The trade off there is seeing that there is a need to be accommodating to all levels of computer literacy.”
For more information on the service learning opportunities at APSU, visit the center’s website at www.apsu.edu/volunteer