After-School Computer Clubs

I. Project Purpose

The After-School Computer Club project provides an opportunity for:

More generally, the After-School Computer Club project is designed to provide capacity building to help people gain the tools to solve problems. Access to computer and Internet technology on the community level also provides important benefits for bridging the Digital Divide. Students of all ages gain access to educational resources that supplement classroom work; for adults, it can provide the sole course of instruction. The Internet also provides a means for community residents to communicate with each other and remain connected with activities in the school. Citizens also gain access to information about government services and activities, which are increasingly being placed online.

II. Initial Pilot Program and Its Evolution

In the Spring of 1999, Info Ren implemented training programs to reach the general public in partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The program goals were (1) to increase community understanding and support for the constructive use of technology in the schools, (2) to augment the public’s familiarity with and access to this technology, and (3) to extend the availability of school district computer labs and Internet access to the broader public.
Info Ren staff met with teachers, administrators, technology staff and members of parent/community councils at several of the district’s schools. A first step in these meetings was to identify the needs of the parents and school personnel. The next step was to develop a strategy to meet these needs.
What evolved was a plan for an after-school Computer Club that parents would attend with their children. The after-school program started as a pilot at Regent Square and McKelvy elementary schools. Parents accompanied by students and community members received computer and Internet training. At these sessions the students helped introduce parents and community members to the schools’ technology environments. The program provided the benefit of distributing Internet capability to the general public and the potential for increased communications between parents and students. It also provided a dual use for the school district’s resources, while establishing dual motivations for parents to participate. The schools allowed the use of computer labs and provide several teachers. Info Ren developed the training programs, assisted with the training, and with funds from the Grable Foundation, paid stipends to the teachers.
Under the initial pilot program Info Ren used a staff person both to coordinate the program in the two pilot schools and to assist with instruction.
 The initial pilot program offered four after school computer club session from March to June 1999. The classes were conducted in one-month sessions, each consisting of a four week series of classes which met one day a week for 90 minutes. The curriculum included:

Based upon the success of the initial pilot program, Info Ren expanded the program to involve ten schools in each of the Fall 1999, Spring 2000, Fall 2000 semesters. The selection of the schools corresponded with the three-phase process by which the school district is implementing equipment and teacher training. Schools identified as Phase 1 schools (the first schools to receive resources under the school district’s technology plan) were eligible to participate in the Fall of 1999, phase 2 schools participated in the Spring of 2000, and Phase 3 schools participated in the fall of 2000. Under the expanded program, in the 1999 –2001 school years, Info Ren hired AmeriCorps Interns to assist the local teachers with instruction.
Sites were selected based upon written expression of interest with the assistance of staff from the Office of Instructional Technology of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. In this way the School/Community Connection has been integrated with the deployment of the school district’s multi-year Technology Plan. The following is a list of participating elementary schools:

Fall of 1999: Phase I Schools

Regent Square

Spring of 2000: Phase II Schools
Bon Air
M. L. King
Spring Garden

Fall of 2000: Phase III Schools
East Hills
Regent Square

Ongoing evaluations have also been an integral part of this project. Parents were given a pre assessment at the first session and post assessment at the last class. The assessment instrument was from the Office of Instructional Technology and allowed the parents and community member to determine computer and technology skills before beginning the program and to evaluate themselves at the last session. In addition, each school was also given the opportunity to evaluate the project at the end.

III. Program Results

As of January 2001, a total of 1289 people, including 648 adults, have participated in the programs.

Spring 1999 (initial pilot)
Fall 1999
Spring 2000
Fall 2000 (as of Jan. 2001)

The participant's assessments show that parents and students both improved their proficiencies. According to pre and post assessments which were given at the beginning and at the end of the computer club, over 70% of the participants did not have access to a computers at home.

Some of the parent and community comments were:

Suggestions for improvements from the parents and community members:

School officials were also very supportive and want the program to continue. Teachers say that:

Indeed, a subtle but significant result has been the school district's increased willingness to open its resources to the public. The school district's technology plan includes the goal of extending its resources to the use of the general public. Indeed, according to school officials, only 15 percent of the taxpaying public actually have children attending schools. School officials, however, have been cautious in the implementation of this goal, due to concerns about security, vandalism and administrative costs. The Computer Club program has proven successful in addressing these concerns.