For the second consecutive year, Walnut Hill Elementary School joined with IBM to teach technology skills to Spanish-speaking families. La Familia Technology Night is a two-evening bilingual seminar bringing IBM instructors together with Walnut Hill faculty volunteers and community families. By the end of the program, many families receive certificates for free refurbished computers.


          IBM developed and sponsors the program, sending 15 instructors to teach approximately 35 parents. The goal is to acquaint parents with fundamental computer and internet skills. Dinner and babysitting are also provided by school volunteers and the PTA.


          DISD describes the program as “designed to help increase computer literacy and promote technology-related education among Hispanic families.”


          Walnut Hill bilingual teacher and Technology Night volunteer Richard Heffernan says, “They were taught computer terminology, basic computer operations and use of the Internet.” By the end of the evening, all participants learn how to use e-mail and set up their own e-mail account.


          Principal Jo Anne Hughes says that many parents log onto the INS Web site, read Mexican newspapers, or research travel schedules and costs.


“This is the second year for this wonderful event with our education partner, IBM. Last year, of the parents participating, only two had ever touched a computer previously,” she says. “Soon everyone in class was sending and receiving e-mail from teachers and visiting all kinds of Web sites to look up information.”


          Participants return to the school several weeks after the initial instruction in order to collect their free computer. DISD provides refurbished computers to approximately 25 families.


          Heffernan says, “The families are grateful for the opportunity to learn about technology. They feel that learning about and using computers is important to help their children get ahead.”


          Hughes hopes to schedule a similar incarnation of the program as a part of February’s African American Technology Week.


          “The children watch their parents come to school and learn something,” Hughes explains. “I think that is really important for the children to see.”


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