Change Makers in Action…

As technologies continue to emerge and evolve, digital literacy is becoming increasingly important both at home and in the workplace. In response to this growing demand, and at the request of our students, Grace Place launched a Digital Literacy course.

The course had a similar beginning to Grace Place itself; a group of dedicated individuals with vision came together to address a need in the community.
“When I first came to Grace Place to volunteer, I was interested in teaching adults English, but then the volunteer experience manager noticed my thirty-year career at IBM on my application. She asked if I’d be willing to help launch a new Adult Education course called Digital Literacy,” comments Melanie. “I needed a little time to think about it. If I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right. After a little reflection, I agreed. I knew this would be an opportunity to make a real impact. It was exciting!”

Melanie recruited Janet (a former IBM colleague), and Sue and Debbie (former employees at Kraft Corporate headquarters). Now all they needed were individuals with teaching backgrounds, so they enlisted Robin (retired faculty at the University of Maryland) and Mercy (a former assistant professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine) to help with instruction. The team was formed.

Their first class of eleven students was enrolled for an eight week pilot course. It quickly became clear they needed more time. “I remember in our first semester I saved the email lesson for the seventh week. I figured everyone would log in to their email and we would work on the basics. It took the entire class time just to log everyone in. Now, in every class, the first thing students do is log in to their email. They’ve got it down to only a few minutes,” recalls Melanie. “These adults have very practical needs. They need to be able to communicate with teachers, register with doctors, and to be able to pay bills. It’s a digital world. These have become necessary skills. We had a student last semester that we helped log in and see their credit card balance for the first time.”

Mercy recalls a lesson when she was discussing local resources that can be accessed through the internet. One of her students, Benjamin, asked her to help him borrow a book from the library. “He had his library card on him. I helped him log in and this look of pure excitement came over his face. He said ‘Oh my gosh!’ He was like a kid at Christmas. All of a sudden he had so many resources available to him, he just had to log in. He could reserve books in any of the libraries across town.” She remembers that moment and the humbling feeling it gave her. “We take for granted so much of our relationship with the internet. We use it every day, we check email, we surf the internet, and we search Google. It’s not like that for these students. It’s another foreign language to them.”

Having spent this year creating a curriculum tailored to the needs of our Grace Place families, these change makers are looking forward to adding an additional level of coursework for more advanced students next year.

Students were tested using the Minnesota Literacy Council’s Northstar Digital Literacy Project assessment. Once assessments have been reviewed, student results will be posted on the Adult Education page of our website at