Farmers to benefit from computer classes

Published 12:31 am Monday, July 2, 2007

By By Olin Farrior – Special to the Standard
From August to October, Jefferson Davis Community College will be offering scholarships to help those of us who are afraid of computers to learn to use computers in our daily lives.
Until recently, I would have been a potential student in these classes. However, over the past few years, I have learned to use and occasionally even enjoy my computer. Like many of the people I grew up with, and around, I put it off as long as I could.
Computers scared me, and I was comfortable with the communications mediums that I had used since childhood; phone, letters, newspapers, and periodicals. I still love the feel of books and papers in hand, but now I also love electronic communications. The transformation happened for several reasons.
First, my children moved far away, and in recent years, my wife and I have been able to continue to stay in touch with them, and even trade photos online via email. Second, I noticed in my every day life, when I wanted information, I was told that the information was on the web, or that it would be more convenient to go on line to conduct my business.
Once I began to use the web, I could check the weather, or read the news when I wanted to, rather than waiting for the six o'clock news. Third, electronic communications has become an integral part of my work life. Although I realized that I enjoyed the ability to communicate with my children, gather information when I needed it, and function in the changing business climate, I did not have a full appreciation of how important the computer was becoming to peoples daily lives until I read The World is Flat; a Brief History of the 21st Century, by Pulitzer prize winning author Thomas Friedman.
In his book he outlined the rapid changes taking place in the way business is being conducted around the world. In short, he outlined a world in which electronic communications was essential to compete. The world he described allowed people in remote parts of the world to become engaged competitors in the global economy through the magic of the internet and fiber optic cables.
If Friedman's projections are realized, everyone will need to continue to upgrade computer skills to remain informed and competitive. As agencies more fully embrace computer based information exchange, even the most isolated people will need computer access to function in society.
On-line service will soon be the norm for banks, government agencies, and at some point payment of bills. Unfortunately, in many cases, people in parts of the developing world are more connected than rural areas of Alabama, and many people in our area are reluctant to use electronic communications.
In September of 2006, I sent a survey to farmers in Escambia County Alabama, most of whom are males over 50 years of age.
The survey was accompanied by a letter that outlined the benefits of receiving electronic newsletters via email, and asking for email addresses. Fifty-four people responded, of those 24 reported having access to email, 14/54 preferred receiving information via email. Of the 14 preferring email newsletters, five were associated with large organizations that offer goods and services to farmers. Twenty of the 54 respondents said they would accept email transmissions of Extension information.
This survey revealed that a high percentage of Farmers in Escambia County are resisting the use of electronic communications, and it is likely that the farmers are not that different from others in their age group.
The survey did not determine the reason that respondents either did not have access to electronic mail, or preferred get information in traditional forms. However, the likely sources relate to being unsure of, or uncomfortable with the technology.
For this reason, I wrote a grant to the Economic Development institute at Auburn University to fund classes to help become more comfortable with electronic communications. The grant was funded, and Jan House with Jefferson Davis Community College has agreed to teach the classes. The classes will be conducted three times, and consist of 5 two hour sessions per class.
The first Class will be taught August 6, 8, 13, 15, and 20 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The second class will begin Aug. 28, Sept. 4, 11, 18, and 25 from 6:00 till 8:00 p.m.
The third class will be taught from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 1, 3, 8, 10, and 15. The classes will be designed for beginners and will cover such topics as sending and receiving emails, using the mouse to point and click, and how to select a service provider.
You do not have to own a computer to participatein the class. If you would like an application for any of the classes or if you would like more information about the classes, please call either the County Extension Office at (251) 867-7760 or Jan House at Jefferson Davis Community College (251) 368-7628.

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