World Wide Wow

Participants tackle computer basics in Waterboro
By TAMMY WELLS,Senior Staff Writer — Journal Tribune, Biddeford, ME

WATERBORO —  It seems these days, if you’re not ready to be online, you’re left behind. People talk about the web, about Facebook and other social media, or what they’ve seen on Pinterest.

It is a brave new world, and it can be daunting. But some basic computer classes offered by Massabesic Center for Adult Learning is changing that — giving students the skills to maneuver their way across the world wide web  — and the confidence to do so.

OTT underwrites Digital Literacy Classes

Pat Hussey of Waterboro, in the foreground, and Mary Reed of Newfield are among those taking Computer Basics courses at Massabesic Center for Adult Learning in Waterboro, learning how to be proficient in today’s technological world. –TAMMY WELLS / Journal Tribune

On Tuesday, students were learning about Google and generally exploring the internet.

About half a dozen folks, ranging from their mid-50s to early 70s, were at their keyboards, listening and learning as instructor Lisa Joiner gave them some basics.

They were encouraged to explore.

Daylilies, genealogy, quilts, Maine news stories, and Asian lacquered boxes were among the subjects folks Googled — and voila, got to explore.

Pat Hussey of Waterboro is a quilt maker who enjoys looking at the variety of patterns available on the internet.

Hussey also likes being on the computer for another reasons. With sons in Texas and Guam, communicating by the internet  helps keeping n touch easier, she said.

Shane Lamontagne is also trying to become more computer literate.  In todays word, “I don’t have a choice,” he said.

Shirley Hawkins, exploring genealogy pages,  said she’s upgrading her skills.

Mary Reed, 72, of Newfield, first learned about computers when she was taking care of some local children — they taught her how to navigate.  But they grew up and didn’t need a sitter any longer, and Reed’s skills began to falter,  she said.

“I didn’t have a computer,”  she said. Reed still doesn’t, but  she goes to a nearby library and with her skills now up to date, uses the ones there.

“I  had known how, but had forgotten,”  she said, “Now, I’m much more comfortable.”

Barbara Gauvin, director of Massabesic Adult Learning Center, said in the fall semester, 47 students took part in the computer basics classes, and 42 in the spring semester. They’re winding down for the summer, and are expected to commence again in the fall.

The classes are underwritten by OTT Communications, known locally as Saco River Telephone.  Spokeswoman Tracy Scheckel  said OTT Communications, a division of Otelco Inc.  operates several small telephone companies based in New England, and also in Alabama and Missouri.

The company underwrites computer basic classes  in a couple of Maine locations — at the Massabesic Center for Adult Learning in RSU 57 and in Gray-New Gloucester. As well, the company just completed arrangements to install half a dozen computers at the Eastern Maine Agency on Aging  office  in a community north of Bangor so folks there can become computer proficient, she said.

The reason is simple — if you want folks to be able to age in place and make broadband available, its good to teach people how to use it, she said.  Scheckel  said that in the classes offered so far, about 70 percent of the participants are 60 years old  and older.

Cynthia Libby isn’t 60 — she has a ways to go to reach that milestone —  but she’s a novice in the computer world. Together with her husband, she operates  Ossipee Mountain Daylilies. On Tuesday, she was looking to use some graphic design techniques to make literature for their business.

“I didn’t know how to turn a computer on,” when she first came to class last fall, said Libby.

“She’s come a long way,” said Joiner.