EdLab Group Foundation (formerly known as The Puget Sound Center Foundation for Teaching, Learning, and Technology)

Communities Connect Network

Many low-income families in Washington State report not having access to broadband services, limiting their access to the education, job and health information, and the civic tools that information technology provides. To address this concern, the Puget Sound Center Foundation for Teaching, Learning, and Technology is proposing to expand the capacity of local public computing centers, enhancing broadband adoption, workforce preparation, digital literacy, education, and justice resources and training. The project will serve the unemployed, low-income housing residents, people with disabilities, immigrants, and youth through libraries, non-profits, and justice centers in Washington State. The project proposes to provide GED, ESL and financial educational services to at-risk and economically vulnerable populations, as well as to partner with local businesses to provide “train-the-trainer” services to build capacity at the computer centers. Five rural courts will also serve as computer centers, where residents can apply for public assistance, access online legal resources, government and human resources information, and seek the help of legal volunteers.

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BTOP In Action
Hu Dao, a lab manager provides one-on-one computer help to a visitor

By November 2011, the EdLab Group’s Communities Connect Network Project (CCNP) upgraded 35 public computer centers throughout Washington State. These centers are being retrofitted to provide low-income families with direct access to computer resources, legal and health information, educational opportunities, and workforce development training.

BTOP funds allowed CCNP to deploy more than 93 new workstations, serving an average of 420 users per week. Along with these computers, CCNP is also partnering with 22 organizations to provide each center with services that meet the needs of its visitors. For example, at the Kalispel Tribal Court computer center, visitors can obtain online legal assistance, court records, and information about the law. Patrons can also communicate virtually with their legal counsel through Kalispel’s two videoconferencing stations.

Another partner, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle, is providing financial literacy training for staff members at eight computer centers in the city. Staff members learn concepts and techniques to teach local residents basic financial planning. Additionally, other partners are implementing digital literacy and career building classes on a variety of topics, such as basic computer skills, digital media editing, job search fundamentals, interview skills, and resume creation.

By the end of this BTOP project, CCNP will establish four new computer centers, upgrade 35 more, and distribute approximately 200 new workstations. To meet the needs of the state’s diverse population, CCNP offers its training classes in various languages, including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Somali. EdLab has also created an online portal for its partners, providing them with a forum to exchange curriculum, share information, and access guidance on how to manage the centers. To view CCNP’s online portal, please visit here http://communitiesconnect.org.

Last Updated: December 23, 2011

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