The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 05, 2015

Miami-Dade libraries offering new tech classes with Knight support

Posted by Jessica Melgarejo Cespedes and Alisha Latham

Participants in the "Make It! Create an Android App" class. 

Jessica Melgarejo Cespedes is the library services specialist in charge of programming and Project L.E.A.D. (Literacy for Every Adult in Dade), and Alisha Latham is the social media specialist in the Community Engagement and Programming department of the Miami-Dade Public Library System.

Offering free technology programs in a public library setting is paramount to bridging the digital divide. The Miami-Dade Public Library System, through $25,000 in support from Knight Foundation, has ambitiously begun providing new quality technology programming to the public. The first of these programs, “Make It! Create an Android App” was recently offered at the Edison Center Branch Library. Spanning four weeks, participants gained hands-on experience in creating an application for Android-based mobile phones.

Even in this small neighborhood branch, the thirst for learning about new technologies was evident in all age groups. Local student Prince said the class offered him a great way to spend his free time and satisfy his interest in technology. The skills he learned in the app class will carry over into his interest in website design. Prince said that he is grateful for the opportunity to participate in a class he hasn’t been able to take in school. His work was so successful that other participants dubbed him “The Whiz,” and everyone was checking out his app. Other participants included a student from Miami-Dade College who hoped to create an app centered on food and recipes and a gentleman in his 50s who readily offered assistance to other participants when needed.

With Knight support, the library system now has the flexibility to work with local experts to provide the public with high-level, quality learning experiences in multiple locations. Before this opportunity, the library system was limited to offering such programs in larger facilities with certain technical equipment, relying on the knowledge of the staff to provide the instruction. Now, we have the ability to hire an outside presenter to provide an all-inclusive program, enabling classes to be offered in small neighborhood libraries with no private rooms. The presenter brings everything necessary for a successful program from projectors to laptops, instruction booklets and more.

The difference was apparent from just one class of “Make It! Create an Android App” as instructor Lucy Tamez of Bright & Smart engaged the participants and guided them through using the App Inventor program and navigating software from Google and other companies.

From robotics engineering to 3-D printing clubs, “Make It! Create an Android App” is just one of the many technology-based programs the library system will be offering in the upcoming year thanks to Knight Foundation. For a complete schedule of programs, visit the library’s Calendar of Events.

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