This winter marked the third consecutive year of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center’s Web Literacy Course, an open resource for adults ages 60 years or older who are interested in learning how to navigate and participate on the internet safely and securely. Each year, the course is led twice a week by Cornell Tech graduate students.
This year’s course was taught by Sadik Antwi-Boampong, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA ‘20. With an additional background in the tech industry as a Research & Development Engineer at Intel, Antwi-Boampong is well-versed in both web literacy and internet health issues.
“I’m quite passionate about teaching and education — I taught classes in undergrad and graduate school, and also co-founded an education non-profit in Ghana called Lead For Ghana — so I thought that this was an excellent opportunity to engage with the Roosevelt Island community,” said Antwi-Boampong, who jumped at the opportunity to connect with locals as soon as he discovered the program. “There are many interesting topics in tech that are relevant to seniors so, in addition to increasing their digital awareness, I wanted to include them in the broader conversation in tech.”
The Web Literacy Course focuses on teaching the fundamentals of the internet and giving an overall understanding of the web, in addition to covering topics such as internet health, digital inclusion, and internet safety. The program’s goal is to expand the participants’ online awareness and teach them digital tools they can apply in their daily lives — empowering them to engage with new technology in a safe way.
During the first class, which covered what the internet is and why internet health is important, Antwi-Boampong asked his students what they hoped to learn from this course. The responses ranged from a desire to fine-tune their internet skills to more granular issues, such as personal security, online safety, and managing digital finances. Despite varying motivations per individual, the entire class had one common goal: To learn how to use the internet effectively and safely so they can more comfortably fit into today’s world.
Topics for this year’s course included skills such as navigating the web, using advanced search options, creating and sharing content on blogs, and using collaborative tools like Google Drive. Additionally, useful information regarding online security and privacy, data tracking, avoiding scams, and being a digitally-aware citizen were discussed. The schedule was also flexibly designed to be tailored to the personal needs and interests of those involved in the course.
Now in the third year of the course, past participants have been able to use the skills they learned in their everyday lives.
Jay Jacobson, a participant of the 2017 course taught by Cornell Tech PhD candidate Vibhore Vardhan, found the course to be an excellent “hands-on” primer and extremely helpful in his day-to-day life.
“The Cornell Tech Web Literacy Course did what I hoped it would do,” Jacobson said. “It gave me an elementary understanding of what the web is, how the internet functions as a part of it, and how I could connect myself to the web to do things that I want to do… The course helped me learn how to do things on the web more efficiently and, in almost all cases, much more safely.”