CALS Brings Digital Wizardry to Adult Learners with Free Technology Classes
Nathan Smith has a Lord of the Rings keepsake on his desk with a picture of Gandalf. That’s fitting, because as CALS Digital Literacy Specialist, Nathan works his own brand of wizardry to teach a variety of software programs to CALS patrons, all offered free of charge.
The first thing you notice about Nathan’s classes is that he is an excellent teacher. Explaining a complex program is challenging, but Nathan makes it look easy with his clear and sequential instruction.
He’s also observant. From his eagle’s nest at the back of the classroom, he watches his students’ screens to see what they are doing and whether they need assistance. Several times during one class, he helped a student get back on track by giving kind guidance. “John, I think you may have accidentally clicked out of the ‘Settings’ page. Look down on the left sidebar and try clicking on ‘Settings’ again.”
His students appreciate this high-quality teaching, as well as Nathan’s gregarious personality.
Cecily, an adult student taking her first class with Nathan, said, “He’s very interesting and easy to follow. And he’s very personable.”
“Nathan makes it easy and fun,” said Steve, who was taking his second class. He added, smiling, “And he doesn’t make you feel like an idiot.”
Kathy was also taking her first CALS Digital class. She said that her employer is transferring their company websites to WordPress, and so she wanted to get some extra training. “Online classes can be too much to soak up at one time,” she said.
Courtney agreed. “Nathan’s very patient, so we can ask questions and go forward and back if we need to.”
Though Nathan usually teaches at the CALS Main Library, he also teaches at other branches in the system, and sometimes runs special programs offsite. He has mastery in many popular subjects including WordPress, Excel, MS Word, Premiere, PowerPoint, and Apple mobile devices (for those of us who need help with our cell phones). Other CALS staff members teach tech courses in Adobe such as Photoshop and InDesign, which are taught by Deb Moore, or basic social media advertising or keyboarding, which are taught by Gabrielle Neafsey-Wroten. Other courses include web development mini-camps, Lynda.com / LinkedIn Learning, Canva.com, Photo Restoration, and Exploring the Internet.
Nathan enjoys the constant learning that his job requires. “I like learning as a teacher in order to advance, because I have to stay on top of new developments in the packages I teach.” He also appreciates the human aspects of his work. “I’m outgoing, so I like meeting new people. I like figuring out what they need and how to approach their questions.”
His students react well to his personal warmth. They often come in a few minutes before class and have a friendly chat. He calls them all by name and remembers which classes they have taken, even when the students themselves can’t remember!
With experienced and approachable teachers like Nathan, Deb, and Gabrielle, the CALS Digital Literacy program offers students a helpful introduction to many technical applications. Patrons use these classes as a boost to a new career path, skills enhancement for a current job, or for personal growth. Even patrons with no familiarity with the internet can get free guidance to navigate through the digital world with confidence. Those who wish to improve their typing speed can even learn to keyboard.
The extensive schedule of free CALS Digital Literacy classes is available online in digital or printable format at https://cals.org/tech-classes/.
The computer lab at the Main Library also keeps regular “Open Lab” hours during which students may work on projects or practice their skills.