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Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP)

Note for Community Trainers: Look for the "wordwide web" symbol shown here. This symbol identifies sections on this webpage that contain online resources for Community Trainers to view in preparation for their California Connects community service.


California Connects offers a multi-pronged approach to increasing digital literacy and broadband access for underserved communities for whom computer and internet access is still a challenge. The project reaches these communities through two primary partner efforts: 
  • The Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) program serves economically disadvantaged, first generation community college students who come from underrepresented populations.
  • The Great Valley Center (GVC) is a non-profit organization targeting services to the Central Valley; residents with the lowest computer and broadband use, and high concentrations of Latinos who also have low computer and internet usage.
California Connects’ strategy demonstrates innovation by:
  1. the development of open access online digital literacy tools that can be accessed anytime anywhere – in libraries, public computing centers, homes, places of business;
  2. utilizing student volunteers (MESA students) and GVC staff to assist users in accessing the digital literacy resources, and
  3. leveraging efforts and maximizing outcomes through collaboration.
California Connects is funded by a $10.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration for Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). California Connects, in partnership with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the Great Valley Center/UC Merced, will provide outreach, training, and learning support to increase digital literacy skills and broadband adoption, targeting historically underserved communities (including, an 18-county region in the Central Valley: Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Kings, Kern, Mariposa, Merced, Madera, Nevada, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Tulare, and Yuba Counties). California Connects is targeting users with little familiarity with computers and the internet, many of whom are native Spanish speakers.

California Connects will also provide laptops to approximately 5,800 economically disadvantaged students who provide a designated community service and are currently enrolled in Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) programs at California community colleges. The equipment will help encourage and enable broadband adoption among students, their families, and communities. See list of 33 participating community colleges.


Primary Goals & Objectives

  1. Generate 61,120 new broadband users and 9,168 new broadband subscribers.
    • Provide and improve access to broadband through community college MESA programs, local libraries, and community-based organizations.
    • Providing access and awareness will be accomplished by outreach from MESA students and GVC staff, exposing the target population to products and services that are designed to add value to the individual’s life – such as helping them find work, develop work-based digital literacy and basic skills, or any form of lifelong learning.
    • A public awareness campaign will increase community outreach and acceptance by emphasizing the advantages of digital skill attainment and broadband access.
  2. Provide laptops to 5,800 MESA students for students use in college level courses and MESA activities, and to assist them and their families in acquiring a range of lifelong learning and digital literacy skills.
  3. Provide Microsoft software training and certifications to 5,800 MESA students.
  4. Create two free, open-source, online, self-paced digital literacy tools (1) digital literacy training and (2) basic skills English and math training. Access to both tools will be further enhanced by community trainers from MESA and GVC who will assist individuals in navigating online resources.
  5. Serve the underserved. California Connects aims to serve community College MESA students/families (economically disadvantaged, STEM majors) residing throughout the state and Central Valley residents – economically disadvantaged, Latino, Spanish-speaking/English Language Learners.




The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) with $7.2 billion to expand access to broadband services in the United States. Of those funds, the Act provided $4.7 billion to NTIA to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, enhance and expand public computer centers, encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service, and develop and maintain a nationwide public map of broadband service capability and availability. NTIA made all grant awards by September 30, 2010.

The proposal for California Connects was submitted by the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FCCC). FCC was established in 1998 by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and Chancellor’s Office to benefit, support, and enhance the California Community College system. As the official auxiliary organization partnering with the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and Chancellor’s Office, the FCCC has the resources and capacity to leverage innovative solutions to address statewide challenges that individual colleges cannot meet on their own. The FCCC’s overarching goal is to ensure that the opportunity for higher education continues to be extended to all Californians. Today, the FCCC has the capacity and expertise to respond quickly to the needs of California’s colleges and communities. The FCCC has secured over $150 million in grants, contracts, and gifts, and provided more than $100 million in direct grants, support, and cost savings to colleges over the past ten years.


Benefits to Community Trainers

Community Trainers in this California Connects Program will provide a critical service to their family and community as part of a national effort to expand access to broadband technology and increase digital literacy in underserved communities.  In addition, community trainers will receive the following benefits:

  • Participation in Microsoft training and certification in MS Word,
    Excel or PowerPoint
  • Training in digital literacy and soft skills
  • Empowering community service opportunity
  • Opportunity to earn a Digital Literacy Community Trainer Certificate
  • HP laptop computer
  • 6 months of 4G AT&T broadband service


Expectations for Community Trainers

Community Trainers will commit their time and service to:
  1. Conduct digital literacy training using the HP laptop for a minimum of two of their family members and minimum of five community members,
  2. Participate in outreach and/or marketing activities to support the MESA and California Connects programs
Upon completion of the Microsoft training and certification, training  (minimum) 2 family and (minimum) 5 community members, and community outreach (minimum 12 service hours), trainers will be awarded a Digital Literacy Community Trainer Certificate from California Connects. All community training activities must be completed by May 27, 2011.


Available Resources

The following resources are available to assist Community Trainers in providing digital literacy training to family and community members:

  1. Digital Literacy Refresher & Training Techniques
  2. Microsoft Glossary of Digital Literacy Terms
  3. Community Training Reporting Sheet
  4. Community Outreach Reporting Sheet
  5. Getting to Know You - Information about the family/community member
  6. Publicity and Photo Release Form
  7. Fact Sheets: 1-page2-page
  8. Updates on California Connects website and Facebook!


Outreach Activities

The following are examples of outstanding outreach activities by Community Trainers. Being a Community Trainer is a great opportunity to impact our underserved communities and increase digital literacy.

41st Annual Chicano Park Day 2011 - April 23. The theme for this 41st annual community celebration is "Education and Knowledge: Our Key to a Better Future." Located in historic Chicano Park, with commanding mural paintings of the past and present struggle of Mexican and Chicano history, Chicano Park Day is a celebration with community speakers, traditional music, food, art, gifts, classic lowriders and dance, including performances of Aztec Indigenous dance. California Connects Community Trainers will host a booth to engage and educate this highly underserved community of San Diego.

San Diego Continuing Education. Part of the San Diego Community College District, San Diego Continuing Education provides necessary educational access and lifelong learning opportunities for our San Diego communities. San Diego Continuing Education is composed of six continuing education campuses with dozens of locations. California Connects Community Trainers will seek opportunities for providing digital literacy training to these underserved communities.

  • California Connects Community Trainer Alondra Galvan (Engineering - Aerospace) will provide digital literacy training at the Educational Cultural Complex
  • California Connects Community Trainers Dana Long (Engineering - Architectural) and Josephine Bamba (Science - Biochemistry) will provide digital literacy training at Mid-City Center

"La Luz del Mundo" (Light of the World) Christian Church.  California Connects Community Trainer Perla Mendez (Mathematics) will provide digital literacy training to parish families.

"Nueva Vision" Christian Church.  California Connects Community Trainer Eliel Chavarin (Engineering - Mechanical) will provide digital literacy training to parish families.

Rancho Elementary School.  California Connects Community Trainers Madel Penaloza (Engineering - Aerospace) and Christian Villa (Engineering - Aerospace) will provide digital literacy training to families of school students.

MAAC Project - Mercado Apartments. California Connects Community Trainer Armando Cid (Sciences - Chemistry) will provide digital literacy training to area residents.

Chula Vista Public Library - South Branch. California Connects Community Trainers Hugo Aguilar (Science - Biology) and LaTiana Ridgell (Science - Nursing) will provide digital literacy training to area residents.

Peoples Church San Diego. California Connects Community Trainer RJ Sangco (Engineering - Electrical) will provide digital literacy training to area residents.

Family Health Centers of San Diego - Proyecto Basta. California Connects Community Trainer Christian Villa (Engineering - Aerospace) will provide digital literacy training to area residents.

Lemon Grove/El Cajon. California Connects Community Trainer Jennifer Ahumada (Science - Biochemistry) provided digital literacy training to area residents


Eligibility for Participation as Community Trainers

Community Trainers must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Economic Eligibility - Trainers must provide proof of receiving financial aid
  • Academic Eligibility - Trainers must be in a math, engineering or science major with a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Participation in the California Connects program is only open to MESA Program students.  Please speak with the MESA Director for questions or participation in the California Connects program.


Digital Literacy Refresher & Training Techniques

A key component of the service of a California Connects Community Trainer is sharing technology skills with individuals less prepared to utilize broadband technology, thereby increasing digital literacy in underserved communities. 

Digital literacy trainers provide a critical service to their family and community. Consider the following videos illustrating the magnitude and importance of digital literacy in the 21st century:

President Obama recently called for a National Wireless Initiative to make available high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans. Increased access alone will not help close the “digital divide” or gap between individuals with access to information technology and resources and those who have little or no access – the have’s and have-not’s. Consequently, the service of Community Trainers will assist in this national movement to elevate access to digital literacy skills through hands-on, personalized training and will enable disconnected individuals to participate in the essential functions of daily life – increasingly conducted using the internet and other technology resources.

Prior to training others, it is important for Community Trainers to “refresh” their digital literacy skills by reviewing the California Connects materials provided, accessing the following self-paced, online resources and completing the Microsoft training tool assessment. The tools come in printable paper format, though the online format is strongly recommended to simulate the training environment that Community Trainers will be using with their trainees. In reviewing each item, pay attention to:

  • the vocabulary and how the presentation of materials explains the concept of digital literacy to a new/first-time user,
  • how information is presented an in what order (sequencing), as well as
  • the types of information and concepts that are taught (together) in each course and sub-course.
  1. Visit Microsoft’s Digital Literacy website – Note: You first must create a Windows Live Account (English and Spanish options available).
  2. Select the Basic Digital Literacy Course that best fits your personal needs as a trainer and the tools you anticipate will be important to your trainees - Standard Curriculum Version2: Computer Basics, The Internet and the World Wide Web, Productivity Programs, Computer Security and Privacy, Digital Lifestyles and Advanced Curriculum: Creating an Email and/or Finding and Evaluating Resources on the Web.  (Note: For general digital literacy training, we strongly encourage you to review the Standard Curriculum Version 2: “Internet and the World Wide Web” topic as well as the Advanced CurriculumCreating an Email” to prepare for training new broadband users.)
  3. Launch the e-learning modules for your selected course; and begin…
  4. After completing/reviewing the e-learning modules, launch the assessment for your selected course.

Upon completion of the refresher assessment for your selected course, be sure to print your certificate of completion (sample certificate shown to the right) and return it to your MESA Director to document your success – also, you may want to add this item along with your other MESA and California Connects training to your resume!

Now that you are well versed in digital literacy terminology and teaching techniques, consider the following preparation guide that was designed to get you thinking about the characteristics of a good, successful tutoring or “mentoring” session. As you read through the materials, strive to attach your own operational definition (meaning) to each concept or technique. Attempt to incorporate some, or all, of the tips during each training session.

Know the Flow ---How a Session Unfolds
Each training session should have three fundamental components.

  1. Establishing rapport
  2. Content work
  3. Closure

Establishing Rapport
Teaching another person to use a computer and the internet requires patience, sensitivity, and using your most professional etiquette. Most importantly, “be yourself…but be your very best self.” When first meeting a trainee, do your best to establish a comfortable, sensible working relationship.

  • Arrange an appropriate work space.
  • Introduce yourself. Consider including a brief autobiographical statement (e.g. “I’m studying electrical engineering.”)
  • Know your trainee by name. If relevant, ask the person to pronounce their name. Ask a casual, non-threatening question (e.g. “What classes are you taking this semester?”) 
  • Review your role and purpose.
  • Ask your trainee to complete the “Getting to Know You…” section (page one) of the Community Training Reporting Sheet and review the trainee’s responses to learn more about their interests and current skill level.
  • Establish clear goals for your work session. Practice active listening techniques, for the discussion in this opening dialogue will set the stage for the content work of your session(s).

Content Work
For a concise list of primary learning outcomes for a “novice” or new computer and internet user refer to the provided Digital Literacy Self-Assessment Tool.

  • Based on your opening discussion, assess the trainee’s desired outcome(s). What does the trainee hope to accomplish in meeting with you?  . . . (Such as “I need to send my essay as an email attachment to my teacher.” Or “I would like to set up a (new) email account.”)
  • Paraphrase the outcome in order to check your understanding of what your trainee wants or needs. (e.g. “So, we should go over converting a document to a secure pdf and sending it as an attachment using your email.”)
  • In your mind, quickly construct an instructional lesson plan to meet the objective(s) of your session.  Preview with your trainee “how” you plan to proceed. (e.g. “Ok, first we’ll create a short sample document, convert it to a pdf and you can send it to my email address.  Once we know the procedure, we’ll repeat it with your essay.”)

For a general overview of how to use a computer and/or the internet, consider the following training examples to use as mini-exercises to complete with your trainee:

  • Discuss computer hardware: identify the monitor, keyboard, mouse, webcam, internal/external drive, cursor, power button and chord, flash drive, and volume. Assure your trainee that they will not “break” the computer.
  • Differentiate between Windows operating systems (such as yours) and Mac operating systems; explain how to identify which one they are using.
  • Explain the desktop. Discuss icons and when to single-click/double-click with the touchpad or mouse.
  • Access preinstalled software (such as Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint); discuss how each (different) programs function.
  • Access your AT&T Communications Manager and discuss the local Wi-Fi versus paid broadband access. Explain when and where to use each internet access point. Explain what an internet browser is and how to conduct basic internet searches. Discuss the web address bar, search feature, bookmarks/favorites, history, web acronyms and toolbar

If your trainee is interested in specific resources that are practical to their personal needs and/or passions, consider the following online tools:

  • English Language Learners – USA Learns
  • High School students preparing for the high school exit exam (math and English) – CAHSEE Steps
  • Tax Preparation – E-File for free via resources from the IRS
  • Sharing Passions – for example, photography? Visit flikr
  • Be sure to visit California Connects for additional tools and resources which will be frequently updated and “Like” us at the California Connects Facebook to keep informed!

Stay on task. (If necessary, capture topics or needed skills on a note card and refer to this list for future content sessions. By recording these topics, you have acknowledged a need for your trainee while not potentially complicating the current work/lesson.)

  • Involve the trainee. Show, assist; however, let the trainee do the “work.”
  • Periodically, check for understanding. Don’t fly through a procedure or activity.
  • Present one concept at a time and demonstrate how each step progresses to the next step.
  • Periodically, provide positive reinforcement, feedback, and praise.

Closure means leaving on a good note and making sure any follow-up commitments are understood.

  • Review the work accomplished.  Listen carefully to the trainee’s explanations and responses.
  • Clarify if this is a single session or the first session in series of meetings.
  • For a single session, strive to end the session on a positive note–a successful experience.  Thank the trainee for his/her time and attention.
  • If this is part of a series of meetings, confirm the logistics of your next meeting.  Allude to the next skills to be covered (refer to your topic note card). Again, thank the trainee for his/her time and attention.
  • Upon completion of a single/last session, fill out and sign the California Connects Certificate with your trainee’s name and training topics covered – present the certificate to your trainee with enthusiasm and pride.

Best Practices - Definitions and Explanations

Operational Definition:  An operational definition gives communicable meaning to a concept by specifying how the concept looks, is measured and is applied within a particular set of circumstances.  Try this with the concept of “tardy”.  Based on your college classroom experience, how have different teachers attached observable meaning to the concept of being tardy to class?

Active Listening:  Making a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying, but more importantly, to understand the complete message being sent.  Listening is an important, multi-functional skill to hone. You listen to obtain information, to understand, for enjoyment and to learn. Active listening means paying attention (non-verbal communication speaks loudly), showing that you are listening, providing feedback, deferring judgment and responding appropriately.  How does active listening differ from passive listening?

Paraphrasing: An essential conversation skill that applies an ability to re-phrase or re-state. Paraphrasing is a tool you can use to make sure you understand the message that you think a client is sending.  It is restating the information you just received to make sure you understand it.  “Are you saying … ?” ” If I understand you correctly, you are saying …. “

Check for Understanding:  Ok, this can range from the all too familiar pop quiz or mid-term exam to a simple verbal phrase. For your work, the latter is more appropriate.  “Are you with me?” “Was I going too fast?” “Do you follow?” “ Should I repeat that?” “Why did we just do it that way?” 


Handouts, Flyers & Sample Certificate (PDF's)

Also available: Online Digital Resources Toolbox


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