Spotlight on: Our Technology Facilitators

Computer literacy drives the modern workforce.

Yet many of the immigrants served by BEACON arrive in Northern Virginia not only lacking English language skills, but having little to no computer experience.

“I’ve had students who are really scared at first—they are really nervous to use the mouse or keyboard and by the end of class they are so excited!” Benedictine Service Corps Member, Bethany Purkapile, shared. “They want to go out and buy a computer and go home and practice! They walked into class and saw the computers with a look of fear and now they are confident and empowered.”

Deficiencies in both language and technical skills create enormous challenges for the immigrant population and impede their assimilation into American society. With so many employers now requiring potential job candidates to apply online, applicants need to be able to access the Internet, fill out online applications, upload documents, write and send emails and other tasks. With nearly two-thirds of BEACON students actively looking for work or hoping to advance in their jobs, adding technology education as a core component into BEACON’s Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IEL/CE) program is a natural evolution.

BEACON incorporates technology into the classroom through English language learning websites and an interactive CD that follows the Future for English Results textbook curriculum. As students acquire an understanding of basic computer functions and learn how to navigate the Internet, they gain the critical 21st Century skills they will need to obtain jobs and manage their day-to-day lives.

Classes are taught utilizing laptops, tablets, headphones, CDs and cell phones via a mobile lab that is transported to each classroom throughout each semester. Technology Facilitators begin by introducing the basics: parts of the computer, how to use the mouse and how to open an Internet browser.

“The students are so excited to learn technology. While some of them may be familiar with a computer and/or their cell phone, they typically don’t know how to navigate the Internet,” says Technology Facilitator, Gina Fuellada. “Once comfortably acquainted with the computer, we teach them how to use the Internet and communicate with online institutions they will routinely access, i.e. doctors, schools, and businesses.”

Teaching the basics, including how to open and close programs and navigate websites also helps students become confident and more competitive in the job market. Technology classes are available for all levels except True Beginner and Pre-Literacy. BEACON also administers (online) career assessments to our Intermediate and Advanced-level students to identify skills, interests and aptitudes that translate into potential occupations and career pathways.

Qualified, dedicated instructors are the essence of BEACON’s technology component. Adding to its corps of outstanding teachers, BEACON recently welcomed new Tech Facilitator, Ryan Messic. Ryan was trained on the concept and methodology of contextual learning in which lessons are developed to ensure that what is being taught relates to the students’ lives in a meaningful way. Ryan is not only an accomplished technical facilitator, but he is a creative teacher that makes learning both meaningful and fun for his students. “Ryan goes above and beyond teaching computer classes,” BEACON Program Specialist, Kristen Paphitis, says. “He interacts with students in meaningful ways, such as role-playing and providing interactive lessons that enable them to draw upon their life experiences. He engages learners in germane discussions that also involve use of online applications and a variety of digital technologies within the two-hour class session.”

Computer literacy is essential for growth and survival in almost every job, and a modern life skill for our immigrant students—96 percent of whom live at or below the poverty level. BEACON believes literacy and technology skills are essential and lay the foundation for lifelong learning. By using technology as a tool in the classroom, Tech Facilitator Ryan Messic and other BEACON volunteers help students develop a solid foundation of computer skills that can boost their chances for employment and improved quality of life.