Young Volunteers in Russia Teach Digital Skills to Their Families and Neighbors

In preparation for Get Online Week, which in 2013 focuses on youth, we would like to tell you about the Teach Your Family campaign, which we organized last year under the Tvoy Kurs project. The campaign was aimed at empowering young computer users to provide digital literacy training for those who have little access to ICT training, specially targeting senior citizens. It involved schoolchildren who, with the encouragement and support from school teachers and using materials developed by Tvoy Kurs, volunteered to help their family members, neighbors, and friends with their online journeys.

At least 1000 schoolchildren participated in the activities to different degrees – some taught how to use Skype or make online doctor appointments; others showed how to browse newspapers or buy tickets online, still others helped Tvoy Kurs trainers in the centers and even served as trainers themselves. 

We are very grateful to Tvoy Kurs coordinators for getting young people excited about volunteering and for investing so much effort into recruiting and training the volunteers, who would, in their turn, help their family members overcome their fear of computers and make their first steps in the digital world.

As a result of this campaign, Tvoy Kurs organized a contest that helped us gather a number of great stories about young volunteers and we are happy to introduce the winners to you: 

Nika Nikiforova (12), winner in the Personal Contribution category, grew passionate about helping others to acquire good computer skills after her own successful completion of the Digital Literacy course. Seeing her desire, the Balakovo Tvoy Kurs Center team gave her the necessary instructional materials, and within several months she became the trainer’s right hand. Herself a rural resident, Nika would commute from her village to the Tvoy Kurs Center after classes and during her school breaks in order to help Tvoy Kurs trainees. Her main focus was one of the most challenging groups: senior citizens and people with disabilities. In the evening Nika also taught computer skills to her immediate family and her classmate, who didn’t have a computer at home and didn’t want to fall behind other students in their class. Nika proved to be a patient and attentive trainer, and her trainees talk about her with great warmth and gratitude.

“ICTs help us bridge all sorts of social divides, which is especially important for people with disabilities,” says Nika. “Every day I go to school as a student, but this role of a trainer has helped me understand what a challenging profession it is. I hope, however, that I did manage to teach my trainees some computer skills and inspired them to continue growing in this area.”

Angelina Bagriy, 14, the winner in the Creative Approach to Training category, trained more than 50 people. Together with her friend Diana they are the youngest volunteers in their Novokuznetsk Tvoy Kurs center, where they help with various sessions, focusing on senior citizens and people with disabilities. Angelina utilizes her training skills at home as well, taking her grandparents, cousins and classmates through the Digital Literacy Curriculum and helping her friends and classmates with their computer science assignments. She has also launched a computer club which meets in her home. Knowing that many of her friends spend a lot of time playing computer games, she managed to channel their interest in ICTs into more productive activities. Now her computer club is well-known in her school, and her teachers know whom to ask for help when they need assistance in editing texts or designing posters.

Timur Ibadov (13) and Maksim Klevtsov (17), winners in The Best Volunteer Team nomination, volunteer with Kaliningrad’s Information Technologies Center. They teach digital literacy skills to family members of the Center’s young trainees, working in the program called “Network School for Parents: Learning Together.” With the help of their teacher, Timur and Maksim developed questionnaires on digital needs and then formed several training groups for people with different starting levels. The training program for parents was held from June through August and recommenced in September, graduating a total of 104 people.

The young volunteers not only led Digital Literacy sessions but also developed helpful practical materials for trainees, including their own Glossary of Computer Terms and “Basics of Working Online”. They also organized special consultations they called “Computer Skills for Life,” teaching their trainees how to choose, purchase and set up personal computers, buy and install software, etc.

“It is wonderful that Tvoy Kurs not only serves the needs of senior citizens but also provides an excellent platform for young active volunteers who actually developed the whole program for us. They didn’t simply have a good idea of helping others but had the courage and determination to see it through, with the help of their teacher and the Tvoy Kurs Center team,” said one of Tvoy Kurs trainees Vasiliy Knyazev.

Anastasia Sokolova (14), winner in The Effective Training category, also volunteers with the Information Technologies Center in Kaliningrad. She leads a group of volunteers that provides digital literacy training for people with disabilities and their family members. She is also an active participant of the Social Equality School Project, where she supervises Tvoy Kurs-based digital literacy programs. She works with kids from the local rehabilitation center for children with disabilities, clients of the Childhood Center for teenagers with disabilities, students from the rehabilitation center for people with hearing impairments, as well as parents and guardians of children with disabilities.

With the guidance of experienced trainers, Anastasia took part in developing a training program specially customized for people with disabilities – for instance, using an interactive whiteboard and more visual aids for users with hearing impairments to make their learning more effective. Thanks to the Tvoy Kurs training,
 nine alumni of the Social Equality School were able to enter computer science programs in different colleges and universities. Other alumni who are still in high school successfully apply their e-skills in producing the school’s e-newspaper and developing presentations about their creative achievements.

Tatiana Bogatkina, whose son Nikita is a student of a special education school for children with visual impairments, says: “I think that it is especially significant that our kids are trained by their peers who volunteer at the Tvoy Kurs Center, by students like Anastasia Sokolova. Interaction with peers helps our children with their social adaptation and, at the same time, provides these young trainers with an excellent chance to learn tolerance and compassion.”

And a longer story about the winner of the contest Ilya Malyshkin (17) - the Best Trainer:

We first heard about volunteer from Tambov Ilya Malyshkin last summer from the success story entitled Biker, Traceur and Tvoy Kurs Volunteer. Ilya’s first trainee was his grandmother. Formerly the first violinist in a famous orchestra, she had to leave her job due to a serious illness and soon became housebound. Ilya saw how difficult this forced retirement was for his grandmother and decided to teach her basic computer and Internet skills, hoping to bring some outside interest into her life. After helping his grandmother (who with new skills managed to overcome her depression) Ilya decided to becoming a Tvoy Kurs volunteer and help other senior citizens become happier and more involved in modern life.

Senior citizens became Ilya’s main focus, although his parents and their friends would also often consult him and ask questions about using the computer and working online. As of today, he has helped 43 people make their first steps in the world of digital technologies, even taking his training skills out of his home and the Tvoy Kurs Center classroom into the streets.

Recently some of the bus stops in Tambov have been renovated to include payment terminals and Sberbank ATMs, complete with free wi-fi. During the day, when the traffic wasn’t too heavy and people waiting at these bus stops were relatively few, Ilya would  gather small groups of people, and explain how to use the self-service terminals, ATMs and wi-fi, handing out information booklets he had developed himself. Now Ilya also provides senior citizens with financial consultations, giving informed advice on investing pension savings, choosing a good insurance policy, etc.

Here is what V. N. Zhirnyakov, one of Ilya’s trainees, says about him: “Earlier in the year I had the good fortune to take a Tvoy Kurs digital literacy course with Ilya Malyshkin. I would have never guessed he was still in high school – he was so knowledgeable, tactful and amiable. He helped us cope with huge volumes of information, introduced us to the wonderful world of computers, and taught us to use the Internet. I would compare his work with mass literacy campaigns of the 1920s.”

We are very proud of our young volunteers and very grateful for their contribution!  These are only a few examples from the big Tvoy Kurs program. And what stories do your telecentres have?

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Comment by Ekaterina Clifford on March 15, 2013 at 14:17

Thanks, Richard! Yes, it is easy, almost like the Get Online Week ;) And i will write about another initiative soon.

Comment by Richard O'Farrell on March 13, 2013 at 12:56

One simple but great idea Ekaterina, and one every Community could and should adopt: your Teach Your Family campaign. Richard

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