CHAMPAIGN — While students at Kenwood Elementary in Champaign will be out of school next week for their fall intersession, their parents and guardians will have a chance to learn about computers at school.
Kenwood is hosting a workshop series called "Demystifying the Computer" from Sept. 23-27, with the help of Martin Wolske and his students from the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
Kenwood parents and guardians who want to participate should contact the school.
Kenwood is a balanced-calendar school, which means students start in July and get a three-week break in fall and spring, a two-week break in winter and a six-week break in summer.
As a part of the workshop, parents and guardians will learn about software, operating systems, networks and will actually take apart and reassemble a computer. They'll also take home a personal computer, which Wolske and his students will give them, which have been donated by local businesses and organizations.
Wolske said the graduate students who will teach the parents are taking his studio class on a subject called "community informatics." Informatics looks at how people use information to change their lives, Wolske said, and community informatics especially looks at how communities do this.
The subject allows for working closely with people to set up systems to help them use information effectively, Wolske said, and his class last spring put on a workshop at the Urbana Free Library.
Kenwood has a new mission, according to a news release from the Champaign school district, which is, "Technology and Literacy for the Community."
Wolske said that mission "resonated strongly" with what his class is trying to achieve and allows his students to apply their knowledge within the community.
Wolske said he hopes parents and guardians attending the workshop start to understand the basics of computers.
"Only a few basic ... components go into this kind of technology," he said, adding that he learned about computers in 1978 when he was in junior high and "I haven't had to learn much new."
Knowing the basics about how computers work will help those attending understand that Apple computers have the same basic components as those that run Windows. The workshop might give those participating enough knowledge to decide what kind of computer they might buy, or whether they want an Android smart phone or an iPhone.
"Underneath the hood, it's so similar," Wolske said. "Once you demystify that, it's much easier to become an informed consumer."
The workshop will also teach parents about how computers connect in a network, how to upgrade them and how to maintain them to keep them working well.
Wolske said the workshop will include discussion about how technology helps or disrupts parents' lives and the way their students learn.
He brings up the Amish when considering this concept — they aren't afraid to try new technology but are good at deciding when technology is helping them or breaking them apart, he said.
"I look forward to having that conversation with parents," he said.
Wolske said the computers that will be given to those participating have been donated by the Carle Physician Group, Parkland College and Millikin University. They've been used, he said, but "they still have a lot of life left in them, in many cases."
Champaign Superintendent Judy Wiegand said the school district is looking at ways to "infuse technology into the classroom," in the district's news release.
"We also know that access at home is imperative to our students' digital literacy," she said. "This collaboration with the University of Illinois and Kenwood is one way that we're looking to build that capacity for students at the elementary school level. Connecting the experts in our community with students and families is a recipe for our collective success in the future."