Google teams up with BYU students to teach digital literacy

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Geoff Gee (right) teaches a Provo resident how to use Gmail. Google donated 20 Chrome books to the South Franklin Community Center as part of the Community Leaders Project.
Geoff Gee (right) teaches Bob Chytraus, a Provo resident, how to use Gmail. Google donated 20 Chrome books to the South Franklin Community Center as part of the Community Leaders Project. (Photo by Taylor Winget)

Google has teamed up with students from BYU’s Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance and the United Way to teach local residents how to be digitally literate.

The Google Community Leaders Program started last year in New Orleans, teaching people to be digitally literate. The recent Google Fiber expansion to Provo prompted an opportunity to help people here.

“They will teach how to turn on a computer, how to e-mail, teaching the basics. All things that we take for granted,” said Michaelann Gardner, a representative from the United Way of Utah County.

The South Franklin Community Center serves the residents of the neighborhood in Southern Provo. It has a computer lab that is rarely used. Gardner said most patrons of the community center don’t even know what WiFi is.

On the morning of Feb. 8, Google hosted an event in the community center along with BYU interns and the United Way. It taught residents at the community center how technology and the Internet can positively affect their lives.

Digital literacy covers a range of topics. According to Ted Jackson, program director of Social Innovation Projects at the Ballard Center, the center will teach individuals how to get a Gmail account or Google something on the Internet. They will also teach businesses how to get a pin on Google Maps and show up first when people search things related to their business.

With the recent installation of Google Fiber, the Ballard Center gave Google the perfect opportunity to expand to Provo, according to Jackson.

“We already had the infrastructure of social innovation projects, and Google didn’t have to train anybody,” he said.

The Ballard Center is located in the Tanner Building. Its focus is social innovation projects and helping students learn how to bring about social change in more effective ways.

Mac Cobb is an economics major from Phoenix, and a member of the SIP group helping Google set up a lab in the community center.

“We think it is only for business students,” Cobb said of the Ballard Center. “But it is for all students. We are all focusing on being successful in our careers. This helps us find better ways to effect change in the world around us.”

The Ballard Center will be hosting numerous events in the coming months to teach students more about economic self-reliance. The “Do Good Better” exhibit in the Education in Zion Gallery in the Joseph F. Smith Building opens mid-February. This exhibit will feature the history of the Ballard Center and the work it has done across the world.

The Ballard Center will also be holding a TEDxBYU event in late March. Speakers will include social innovators, BYU students, faculty and alumni, according to the Ballard Center website.

There will be an informational meeting in March for students interested in interning for the Ballard Center. Visit power.byu.edu or ballardcenter.byu.edu to learn more.

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