HILC’s first computer lab was set up in 2000 in a small (“cozy”) room at the office on Alma Street. There were 8 computers and Mark Larson was responsible for the lab from 2001-02. Each language class would spend some time during the week in the lab with Mark. As well as teaching them to use some basic computer programs, Mark would consult with the instructors and search the internet for resources to complement the classroom work they were doing. He gave the learners links to grammar exercises they could do online to reinforce what they were learning in language classes. Mark held this position for a year and then moved to work at MISA.
HILC continued to expand the work in the computer lab, using ESL instructors, volunteers, people on work placements and eventually regular staff. Ours was the first school in the province to use Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). In addition, Kathy Burnett developed the first of our computer skills books, which revolutionized our training, making it much more structured and methodical. These books, revised several times since, have been amazingly in demand throughout North America. They have been used by school systems in Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago, to name a few. Unable to keep up with the requests, we posted them on the National Adult Literacy Database, where they have been downloaded more than 2,500,000 times!
When HILC and MISA moved into Chebucto Place in 2003, the new shared computer lab had 15 computers. Tim Latter handled our IT support and taught basic computer skills and then Malena Contreras joined us as the full-time computer lab instructor.
Today our computer lab contains 19 computers and a SmartBoard and provides instruction in literacy, job search skills, writing emails and using social media, as well as basic computer programs and CALL. We have also taught Autocad and SAGE 50. EAL instructors are using LearnIT2teach – a product on the Moodle platform that has CALL content in modules and allows instructors to create and upload materials.
We’ve come a long way since we began computer training classes 19 years ago, and we look forward to helping newcomers learn the computer skills they need to work and live in Nova Scotia as technologies change and evolve.