Saturday, October 29, 2011

Insomiac blog

Too many things to think about
What is happening
But not happening
What I can do
But cannot do
These are things I cannot control

Monday, October 24, 2011

Teaching in the Tenderloin

Previous Blog Post From: Monday October 17th for the week of 11/10 – 11/21

Teaching computer skills to new computer users has always been a sore subject for me. I've never been especially talented at helping others with basic computer skills especially thinking back to the days of helping my parents. On Tuesday, Mun and I headed down to the Tenderloin Tech Lab at 150 Golden Gate in the heart of the Tenderloin to help with an introductory computer skills class.

The class was filled with a diverse population of seniors and middle aged adults. It was certainly interesting to smell the fumes of vodka emanating from the back of the classroom at 10 o'clock in the morning. After all it is the Tenderloin.

The class began with the teacher talking about the objectives for the day: copy and paste and file management. Putting my “expert” tech knowledge to the test I wandered around the class room showing people the appropriate place to click and the importance of copy and paste.

At first everything seemed easy, I became accustomed to the faint vodka smell and settled into offering my guidance around the room.

I became a bit frustrated when it came to helping help an elder gentleman finding a certain menu. He was a really pleasant old man that just could not keep the mouse still. I kept patient and repeatedly showed him where the right place to click was.

I'm not trying to be pessimistic here or even state the fact that I don't enjoy helping people, because this is far from the truth. Like I mentioned before, it is not easy for me to help very inexperienced computer users. It's not something I'm used so I am finding it challenging. I can see now that teaching means adjusting my thinking and developing my patients . I'm not used to speaking about computers in such simple terms.

I'm am sure that I can teach these introductory skills. But I fear for my sanity. Do you have any suggestions? Yoga,medication or mediation? If you have any ideas let me know. You may keeping from loosing my head this year. I already have old man back issues the last thing I need is an ulcer...(just kidding)

On a side note, I would like to thank Paul the instructor at the TTL. Not only were his teaching methods very practical but I was able to retain some very important methods from him that I can use in the near future.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reporting pressure, peer pressure

I don't mind not starting my service later due to CTN's work plan, my own vacation plan, and the fact that I still don't have the smart phone. Still, I would be lying if said I rather work in the office than in the field directly with the community. I have been slowly losing my patience, but this week, it really took a hit.

First, Dan and I are required to submit a number of reports. I doesn't really help to be asked 129 times in the monthly survey what we have not done. Then, they promptly send us a nicely formatted report that summarizes our results (or lack thereof). Then they ask us to do an evaluation and a reflection to remind us again.

Second, we are required to check in with other groups using Google Hangouts. It doesn't really help to hear the what other members are doing, and not being able to reciprocate.

Third, I am still envious of the two volunteer teachers from Job Corps.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Hosting" classes in Valencia Garden computer lab

Valencia Gardens computer lab is used to being slow due to the lack of computer classes and drop-in computer users. It all changed this week. This week, Valencia Gardens computer lab plays host to 3 different organizations offering free computer training to the community.

First, Danielle, from USF, teaches the "Introduction Computer Class" two days a week, from 5 to 6 p.m. She started last week, and will be here for 3 more weeks. Second, Shai (spelling?), an intern from One Economy, teaches the "Computer Workshop", every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Third, Min and Hua, two trainees from Treasure Island Job Corps, teach the "Chinese Basic Computer Workshop" every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They will be here for 6 weeks. Dan and I did not get advance notice that the classes would be happening. Fortunately for the "Introduction Computer Class" and "Computer Workshop", the teachers arrived early and few students showed up. Unfortunately, the "Chinese Basic Computer Workshop" because a different story.

Students started arriving at 9:30 a.m. for a class they thought was going to start at 10 a.m. A new posted schedule at the door said the class was starting at 10:30 a.m. Students continued to arrive and the teachers were nowhere to be seen. At 10:29 a.m., the two "teachers" arrived with their supervisor from Treasure Island Job Corps arrived. They received what I perceived to be an "orientation" from their supervisor, as well as Martin who arrived a few minutes later. Except for two students who demanded seats or computers to use because they registered for it, the other students were very patient and understanding. The two teachers, who were obviously not trained or prepared, were put in a difficult situation. They briefly introduced themselves. As questions poured in, they went on to help students one-on-one. However, one-on-one wasn't going to work for a class of 18 students.

Nothing really happened until like 11:00 a.m. As the only Chinese speaker who knew what was going on, I felt I had to do something. After checking with the other "teachers", I got the students to gather around one computer, told them who the different parties were, the services offered by the Valencia Gardens, what (I thought) the computer class was, what (they think) computers are used for, the different types of computer, Valencia Garden's computers, how to turn them on, how to log in, how to open Internet Explorer, and how to open The rest of the time were spent helping individual students. I also wrote some URLs on the white board for students to check out.

After the class was over, I debriefed with the two "teachers". I suggested that they check with their supervisor to find out if they can arrive earlier, or start the class later. I also suggested that they come prepared, and think about what they are going to teach for the next 6 weeks (or remaining 17 two-hour classes) so that the students don't get bored and stop coming.

Update for Thursday: The Chinese Basic Computer Workshop was more orderly. Martin of Valencia Gardens gave some handouts for the teachers to use. Since a few students asked about finding low-income housing in San Francisco, I made a handout about the topic and combined it with teaching about Google Search and Google Translate. I am not sure if the teachers plan to use the handout, but it looks like this.

Live update on Friday: The Chinese Basic Computer Workshop is going on right now. The two volunteer teachers are doing very well: Managing the class, having a good lesson plan and teaching materials, delivering the instruction clearly and responding to their students' needs and developing a good relationship with them. I am trying to limit my role to just supporting them. They were given a challenge, and have demonstrated that they are capable of performing the task and learning in the process. More importantly, they have started doing their service and making an impact immediately. I am envious of them.

Correction on 10/25/2011: The name of the intern from One Economy is spelled Cyrill, not Shai.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


As another exciting day began at The Valencia Gardens Computer Lab we were hit by a sudden surge of traffic. Around 9:30 small amounts of chinese seniors began to trickle into the lab.

Thanks to Mun being able to speak Chinese, he was able to help the seniors in the mist of their confusion as they began to bombard him with questions. Since Valencia Gardens is so "incredibly" organized we had no idea about the class until the day before when two elder chinese men showed up to the lab looking for a computer class. The supposed class to be taught was an introductory computer course in Chinese for seniors who wanted to learn how to use a computer.

Around 10:25 the lab was at full capicity with still no teacher in sight. Mun spoke to several seniors trying to explain them what was going on. Finally at 10:30 two younger chinese girls showed up with another man who was from the organization JobCorps treasure island. We found out that job corps had provided two younger chinese girls to help faciltate the class. However, both girls were completely unaware that they would be teaching a class in front 20. The girls had no cirriculm and were quite shy and taken off guard.

As the hour progressed the confusion seemed to grow with the room filled with a bunch of chinese only speaking seniors wondering when the instruction was going to begin. They sat clueless at their computers as Martin from VG tried to coordinate with Jobcorps guy, myself and Mun to help get a cirriculum up so a class could be taught.

Eventually Mun took action and began to start running the class himself after asking little assistance from myself except to help set up a projector which eventually wasn't used. He gathered the seniors around one computer and showed them the basics on the computer. Realizing that I was pretty much useless since I don't speak Chinese I did the only thing I could the whole thing. After filming Mun's instruction I dissapeared into the CTN office only to return a half hour later to see that Mun had everyone crusing the internet.

What can we learn about today's lesson? Well having good communication skills is always helpful..Mun and I both looked at eachother amongst all the confusion and both agreed we were never going to have one of our classes look like what was going on at the moment..In all, it was quite a site to see and maybe a bit entertaining because we weren't to blame and it wasn't our class. I thnk I can say I certainly took a lot away from this experience.

At the same time it was shameful for the seniors who were expecting a full on lesson and received only a bunch of chaos. There many different things that went wrong, poor plannning/communicaiton efforts from both organizaitons both the hosting org and the visting org. Also,I felt sorry for the poor girls who were supposed to be teaching the class and had no idea that they would be speaking in front a large group let alone teaching an entire course. For the future: always have a cirriculum ready in hand if you are going to be teaching a course.

The credit here goes to Mun who now I'm pretty sure all of the seniors believe him to be there teacher. We were able to gather a few resources and basic cirriculum to help out the two girls with for next time but it might take them a class our two to have a lesson planned and the cofidence to begin teaching. Another day at VG and the excitement continues!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tenderloin Technology Lab, CTN Volunteer Training, Computer Lab Sign

On Tuesday morning, Dan and I went to Tenderloin Technology Lab to observe the Basic Computer Skills Class. 12 students on 12 workstations were taught by Peter and assisted by 1 TTL staff, Dan, me, and 2 other volunteers. Students were taught how to find the USB flash drive on the computer, how to create a folder, open a Word document, copy text, open a new document, paste text, and save (a copy) in the folder they just created. Students also practiced typing, formatting text and spell-check. I thought the exercise files distributed to students on USB flash drives worked very well. And of course, having 1 teacher and 5 volunteers to 12 students definitely work.

On Tuesday in the evening, I helped in the CTN Volunteer Training conducted by Kerri. 7 new attendees were expected, but 9 showed up. I am glad to to have met 2 former VISTA members (Mina and Charles) and Carlos who works as a technical writer at TechSoup. I have attended different volunteer trainings, and I learn something different every time. For example, while working at California Campus Compact (2004-2006), I observed that their trainings emphasized more on service learning and personal safety of the volunteer. At the pre-service orientation in Fort Lauderdale, I observed their trainings emphasized more about the understanding of the issue of poverty and the responsibilities of members to do their service notwithstanding the lack of guidance, support and resources. At CTN and AspirationTech, I observed that the trainings are based more on shadowing and mentorship. Most recently on this Tuesday, I observed that the brief training of USF student volunteers at Valencia Garden's computer lab has more to do with why they do it and what their expectations are instead of what to do or how to do it.

First thing on Wednesday, I found out that HandsOnTech Corps is not longer providing smart phones for members citing technical difficulties with phone contracts. Instead, they will reimburse members based on what percentage they use their own phones for service-related work. I sent an email to them stating my concerns, and they suggested I have Kami contact them. I hope I get tools needed to do my service soon. According to Thomas Gilbert, a performance engineer, performance will suffer if there is a lack of knowledge, motivation or tools. The solution could be people, process and technology (per Gunner) or teaching, counseling and technology (per an educator). Here is Gilbert's probe model that I have often used while studying instructional technology (2002-2005):

At 10 a.m. Dan and I checked in with Kami on the phone. I am glad Kami will try to get Dan and I smart phones. We also talked about the directory, Valencia Gardens, trainings at Google and scheduling a meeting with AspirationTech. Kami also suggested Dan and I include Jessica and Uno in our deliverables spreadsheet and share it with them.

At 12 p.m., Dan and I watched the webinar about "Handling Difficult Conversations", presented by Judith Katz. She said difficult conversations are common everywhere, including social media, and we could make them worse or better, but we can take the opportunity to connect with people using "Non-Violent Communication". The four steps of NVC are observation, feelings, needs and requests. This is a bit different that other conflict resolutions and violence prevention workshops that I have attended that emphasizes first on personal safety, listening, and giving people choices such as to lower their voice if they want to be helped. For notes and slides about the webinar, please go to

On Thursday, Dan and I watched a webinar about Navigating the Politics of School Politics by HandsOnTech Corps, and then attended a team meeting with Lorna and Kerri.

On Friday, Dan and I worked at AspirationTech in the morning before heading over to Tenderloin Technology Lab to teach an intermediate class about keyboard shortcuts and file management. There were 8 students. I started with keyboard shortcuts, and then, Dan taught file management. We were glad there were "tools" for us to teach with such as handouts, a projector, working computers and a volunteer.

When not attending any meeting, etc., I spent the week mostly on the Room Rules poster for Valencia Gardens computer lab, and reporting (blog, timecard, surveys, deliverables spreadsheet, etc.)

Finally, I finished reading the Managing Technology. It is very informational and insightful, especially for non-profit decision-makers and technology users who wants to better leverage technology for their organizations. It will be useful when I start doing the tech assessments for non-profit organizations. I am not sure if I would get into too much details with them though, such as determining the stage of technology and analyzing the return-on-investment (ROI).

Friday, October 7, 2011


Besides completing our weekly agenda of finishing up the BTOP website ( check it out its looking pretty good! ) and updating CTN's directory Mun and I have been making weekly trips to different NPO's we will be working with in the future.  We started out this week on Tuesday by making our way over to the Bay Area Video Coalition over on Mariposa at Bryant.  We met with Andy who gave us a tour of the facilities as well gave us into insight into what sort of classes we could teach at BAVC.  Since all of the computers at BAVC are Apples it seems the need for introductory mac basic computing skills is what is needed the most.  SF Commons public access is hosted out of BAVC so their are a lot of inexperienced computer users creating public access TV shows that certainly could use the help of learning some introductory computer skills on macs.  I was pretty excited to hear this since I've been a mac person my whole life. I'm looking forward to teaching on OS that I know the best.   We will be working with Andy in the next few weeks to help send out proficiency tests to figure out how we can formulate a curriculum.  BAVC's facilities were so incredibly nice it really inspired me to create my own public access TV show which i'm definitely considering doing in the near future.
       On Wednesday we headed over to Treasure Island to visit at The Treasure Island Homeless Development or TIHDI.  We had heard that they were having issues with their computer lab so Mun and I figured we would put together a small tech assessment for them.  It ended up that their lab wasn't as in bad shape as we thought and doing a lot better than Valencia Gardens lab where we currently monitor in the afternoons.  Overall, the visit went well and we will hopefully be giving them some advice in the near future on how to better maintain their computers.  It was a great week at CTN i'm always a fan of field trips especially to crazy apocalyptic looking places like Treasure Island.  It has been a while since we've both posted any pictures and it doesn't look we will be getting smart phones anytime soon to better enhance our blogging so I'm leaving you with a nice one of Treasure Island. Have a good 3 day weekend! I'm going to enjoy mine for sure because I know next year if I'm working in the non-profit world I certainly won't have it off! Thanks again Kami!

BAVC, TIDHI, directory calling, BTOP website

On Monday, Dan and I worked at AspirationTech, and after lunch, at CTN so we can make phone calls.

On Tuesday, Lorna, Dan and I met Andy Kawanami and Jennifer Gilomen at BAVC. Andy gave us a tour of their facilities before talking about classes they may need help teaching, such as Mac Basics and about social media. He also talked about BAVC hosting SF Commons, which is the public access television for San Francisco. Membership rates are such as $10/month for a low-income SF resident and $250 for a SF non-profit organization. Membership privileges are such as discounted BAVC classes and up to five 4-hour reservations of studios and editing labs. "Certification" is needed before using the studios and labs though.

On Wednesday, Lorna, Dan and I met Lani Hansson and Sherryl Morris at Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI). Lani talked about her small computer lab, Business Assistance Center located in the Ship Shape Community Center. After that, Dan and I did a brief tech assessment of the 5 computers the computer lab.

On Thursday, Dan and I attended the staff meeting, and then worked on the BTOP website. On Friday, we worked on the SFBTOP website and this blog, time reporting, finding graphics for computer lab signs, etc.