Classes Teach Tech Literacy For All
More than 15 years ago, Gigi Davidson had something of a prescient moment: “I saw that computer literacy was sorely needed,” she recalls.
After seeing how much her son had learned through a series of computer classes, Davidson wanted to spread that knowledge to other keiki — as well as to adults and seniors. With that in mind, Davidson launched nonprofit Ohana Komputer in 2000 with the goal of providing computer education and promoting technological literacy while emphasizing communities in need.
“It is even more imperative today than it’s ever been,” Davidson says.
Topics covered include desktop publishing, word processing, graphics, spreadsheets, database and multimedia. Classes are offered for different grade levels — K-2, 3-4 and 6-8 — and for seniors and adults that focus on basics like word processing or writing an email.
For the kids, Davidson says, technology savvy is a bare necessity to be successful in the workplace. In addition to the classes, a few local schools hire Ohana Komputer to teach technology courses. It also tailors various curricula to after-school, summer school or inter-session programs.
“What we try to do is teach them how to use the computer as a tool to improve their productivity, creativity and efficiency,” she explains.
The idea that today’s kids are highly tech savvy is partially a misconception, Davidson feels.
“What kids are really good at is texting, social media and playing games,” she says, “which are very different from computer applications.”
Plus, many schools she works with can only afford outdated technology — or have cut tech programs altogether.
For the older students, the classes meet simpler needs: “If you think about how many things require a computer in everyday life, like making a (doctor’s) appointment online or buying airline tickets, we help them feel comfortable doing these things,” Davidson says.
“It’s pretty heart-warming to hear how it is impacting their lives — whether it’s getting a job or communicating with their family,” she adds.
Ohana Komputer’s newest program for kids is S.T.E.P.S.
To Success, which combines art, dance, music, video and computers — with an emphasis on community service.
It’s the service aspect of Ohana Komputer that Davidson is the most passionate about. Through targeting low-income schools, as well as disabled adults, Ohana Komputer aims to reach out to those who may not have any other opportunity to increase their tech skills.
“In that lower economic echelon, they just don’t have any of this really available to them,” Davidson says.
“I have a real compassion for the underdogs in the world who struggle and need extra help,” she adds. “Everybody deserves a chance.”
Ohana Komputer has managed to thrive, serving thousands of students throughout the years, even during a period of unprecedented advancement in computers and the Internet. While Davidson admits that Ohana Komputer can’t always be on the forefront of these changes, it can provide students with a solid base of knowledge.
That knowledge has produced some unforgettable success stories for Davidson, who recalls students, such as a kid from Palama Settlement who launched a career in graphic design after working on an art project through Ohana Komputer. Another one of her longtime students went on to study information technology in college before landing a job at Sony.
“If you want to help someone raise up their life, really the best way is through education,” she says.
Ohana Komputer accepts ongoing enrollment. For more information, visit ohanakomputer.org.