Organizational Opportunity, Need, or Problem
Generations of Hope is a nonprofit organization that works to enhance and extend the lives of vulnerable populations by tapping the transformative power of intergenerational community living. The first Generations of Hope, Hope Meadows in Rantoul, Illinois, was created in 1994 to support families adopting children out of foster care and seniors who are looking for a meaningful community. Generations of Hope currently assists 10 families, 36 children and 46 seniors. They provide staff- and volunteer-run after-school programming for the residents in the Intergenerational Center (IGC), as well as a Boys Club and other activities based on the needs of the community. We believe an updated computer lab with more accessible technology will help the community continue to grow together and support one another, as well as increase digital information literacy skills across multiple generations.
Building community and promoting intergenerational communication and relationships is a primary focus at Generations of Hope. We updated the computer lab in the community’s Intergenerational Center (IGC) so it fosters collaboration, life-long learning and digital literacy skills. By both updating the technology and equipment as well as implementing design elements conducive to productivity, we hope that the lab will better meet the needs of the staff, volunteers and residents. In order to complete our plan, we pulled from various resources, including our 451 group project team; assistance from our instructor, Martin Wolske, and our TA, Adam Rusch; the Generations of Hope staff and volunteers; $710.45 available to us from an OEOA grant fund; and additional purchases by Generations of Hope through their program supply budget and various donated items.
There are two main components to our lab design plan: physical space improvements and technology upgrades. First, we cleaned and painted the walls in a bright, warm hue. We also built a custom, L-shaped pod table and shelves. The table will serve as a group workspace or extra table space to accommodate laptops or even non-computer project work. The pod table is stationed away from the other computers in the southeast corner. This computer has a webcam for video conferencing and will be the computer that the community can test new software on as they decide whether or not they want to install it on all of the workstations. The shelves sit on top of the table and provide storage for computer game disks, supplies, etc. The remainder of the computer workstations (1-5) are arranged along the west and north walls. This uses the space efficiently while allowing adults to easily supervise young people when they use the lab. We also replaced the lab’s chairs with six new office chairs with wheels to address comfort and accessibility requests from the residents and staff, and to foster easier collaboration with movable furniture. We designated the east corner for multi-media activities like video recording since Generations of Hope’s computer committee expressed interest in eventually doing these types of activities. As a finishing touch, we created posters explaining the lab’s rules and reminding residents to save files to their flash drives, email files to themselves, or upload them to Dropbox rather than saving them to the workstations.
Second, our technology upgrades encompassed hardware, software, administration/security and networking. The computers (5 Dells and 1 Simplified Computer) originally ran Windows XP. We upgraded the computers to Windows 7 at Generations of Hope’s request. We also upgraded the RAM in all machines to at least 2GB to increase the speed/capabilities of the computers so they can run more than one application at a time. We also updated all existing (useful) software and installed new software applications (re-installing Adobe Photoshop, as Generations of Hope already have licenses; Skype; Alice; Firefox/Google Chrome; audio and video editing software; anti-virus software; educational games, etc.). In addition to new software and RAM, we installed a web cam on workstation 6 and replaced 3 old or faulty monitors with donated flat screen monitors.
To help Generations of Hope maintain and secure the lab over time, we set up Administrator, Hope Child, and Hope Adult accounts on each workstation. Hope Child and Hope Adult accounts do not have administrative privileges. The primary difference between the Hope Child and Hope Adult accounts is that the Hope Child Internet is filtered while the Hope Adult’s Internet is not. We decided to use Open DNS Internet filtering since it allows the filtering to occur at the cloud level instead of on each individual computer which will make the filtering system easier to manage over time. We decided to use two routers which allowed us to create filtered and unfiltered Internet access. The wireless Internet connection is not filtered allowing residents who bring their own devices into the lab or use the wireless signal from home to access unfiltered Internet while the wired Internet in the lab is filtered. In addition to security measures, we used the Windows 7 system management tools to allow program updates to run automatically overnight so users do not have to deal with updates and downloads while they are trying to work.
Once the lab is in place, we hope the Generations of Hope computer committee will be able to host several activities, including a technology “petting zoo” to showcase new equipment and programs to the residents and give demonstrations on their uses. If Generations of Hope is able to acquire a video camera, we hope the lab will allow them to host a “video journalism” workshop with the young people and seniors collaborating to create, edit and share digital video interviews. Ultimately, we hope we have left Generations of Hope with a higher-functioning lab that is easier to manage and maintain in the future and that will fulfill Generations of Hope’s goals of building community and promoting intergenerational communication and relationships.