Guest Contributors

Bridging the Gap to Promote Digital and Traditional Literacy

Share this post:

Think back to your first reading experience. Chances are you stumbled through printed books until you gained proficiency, and that learned skill gave you access to unlimited possibilities. Now imagine yourself as an adult learner or a young student today. In addition to traditional literacy, new readers are faced with the additional challenge of acquiring digital literacy in order to navigate through everyday life. The task becomes nearly impossible when computer access is unavailable, and the divide between those with computer resources and those without is growing at an alarming rate. For 18 years, Austin Free-Net has worked within the community to bridge the gap with free internet access and computer training as it applies to the real world. Partnering with IBM’s Reading Companion program has given adults and children the necessary tools that simultaneously aid them in their quest for reading and digital literacy.

cropped-photoheader

IBM’s Reading Companion uses voice recognition technology in a self-guided program to improve reading literacy and increase familiarity with computers. Students can hear and repeat words as an on-screen narrator detects accuracy and provides positive reinforcement. Learning from materials via Reading Companion eliminates the frustrations one might face when reading alone, and provides private instruction to low-literacy adults to help build and improve their reading skills.

Austin Free-Net uses Reading Companion in our daily outreach to new computer users. Community members can visit one of our public computer labs to read an e-book, or even write a book to add to the Reading Companion library. Reading Companion writers also learn how to teach and engage others with limited literacy and computer skills.

We recently hosted Broadband Across Texas week, an event during which local and international volunteers together to expand the Reading Companion library. Volunteers, staff, and members of the community exercised their creative flair to promote awareness of digital literacy.

Austin Free-Net is excited about the opportunities that arise with reading literacy and digital inclusion and welcomes you to contribute to its efforts. If you know of someone who needs assistance with computer or reading literacy, visit our website where you can find a local computer lab. You also can find volunteer information and learn more about how you can get involved with improving literacy with IBM Reading Companion.

Juanita Budd is the Executive Director of Austin Free-Net.

Related Resources:

Improving the Technology of Learning to Help Close the Digital Divide

Coming Together to Champion Digital Inclusion in Texas

Second Annual Broadband Across Texas Week A Huge Success

Follow the Austin Free-Net Blog

More Guest Contributors Stories

Reauthorized Perkins Act Will Strengthen Education-to-Employment Connection

When IBM joined forces with The City University of New York, the New York City College of Technology and the New York City Department of Education to create the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – a new school with a strong career and technical education program – we knew we were witnessing […]

Continue reading

Reclaiming the Promise of Career and Technical Education

The promise of American education has always been one of economic opportunity and democratic citizenship. We tell all students that if they work hard, achieve academically and complete their education, they will be able to find good jobs, lead productive lives and participate fully in our democracy, where the people are the ultimate rulers. For […]

Continue reading

Supporting Persons with Disabilities in India

In India – where the population of persons with disabilities is estimated to be greater than the overall population of the UK – people with disabilities (PwD) often are considered liabilities. Despite the 1995 Persons with Disabilities Act, which was revised in 2015 to guarantee jobs to persons with disabilities, more than two-thirds of that […]

Continue reading