Technology 4 Tomorrow class on AI

Technology for Tomorrow’s Microsoft TechSpark program exceeds goals

Source: Technology for Tomorrow

Technology for Tomorrow (T4T) wrapped its inaugural year of the Microsoft TechSpark partnership with the completion of its digital literacy series.

T4T, a nonprofit based in Williston, was the Vermont organization selected for the inaugural Microsoft TechSpark Fellow Program to foster inclusive economic opportunity, job creation, and innovation in the state. 

“Digital equity is a must-have for our communities,” said Vijay Desai, T4T executive director. “For T4T, bringing digital literacy to under-resourced populations is a must-do. We want to close the digital divide in Vermont.”

Vermont, like many parts of the nation and world, experiences a deep digital divide. According to the National Institutes of Health, the pandemic only reinforced the digital divide.

T4T developed “TechSpark Wednesdays,” a series of free digital literacy courses. The two 10-week cohorts centered on basic skill building and advanced AI understanding. The 90-minute hybrid classes met weekly in the Digital Lab at the South Burlington Public Library. Participants also were able to join virtually, ensuring access via digital learning.

T4T, with programs like TechSpark Wednesdays, works to close the digital divide and create digital equity – a time and place where all Vermonters have access to the technology, skills, and opportunities they need to participate fully in the digital world.

The TechSpark Wednesday basic series covered topics including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, as well as smart phones and safety and security, and more. The generative AI classes focused on the understanding and effective use of AI for individuals and organizations, including foundational background, emerging tools, as well as ethical questions for consideration.  

The Digital Equity Act identifies several populations that require resources and services to overcome the digital divide. These priority populations are people with language barriers; ethnic minority groups; aging people; people who live in rural areas; households earning at or below 150 percent of the poverty line; veterans; incarcerated people; and people with disabilities.

T4T collaborated with nonprofit partners to identify participants in these priority populations or work closely with them to participate in TechSpark Wednesdays. Nearly 50 adult learners participated over the 10 weeks from more than 15 nonprofits, including U.S. Committee for Refugee and Immigrants, Vermont Afghan Alliance, Cathedral Square, HireAbility, CVOEO, CVCOA, and AARP, among others.

T4T opened the program in December by hosting a statewide roundtable with special guests from Microsoft TechSpark, Christine Hallquist from Vermont Community Broadband Board, state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, and nonprofit leaders.

South Burlington Public Library partnered with T4T to provide its Digital Lab for the pilot program, making the classes accessible to the community’s nonprofit agencies. 

T4T (tech4tomorrow.org) empowers people in need with technology education, building digital literacy among all people in the community. The organization was founded in 2012.

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