News Feature

Penobscot
Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 30, 2022
Workshops spreading digital literacy in Penobscot
In preparation for coming broadband internet

by David Avery

A series of workshops has been under way in Penobscot to help residents “expand their digital comfort zone,” according to Ricky Leighton, director and instructor for the project.

“This gives us a great opportunity to get out in the community and help people one on one, a chance to make a big impact in improving digital literacy,” said Leighton.

Two workshops have already been held, with two more to go this year, he said. In addition to the workshops, Leighton hosts monthly one-on-one troubleshooting sessions. They occur at 2 p.m.

Both workshops and troubleshooting take place at the United Methodist Church on Southern Bay Road in Penobscot.

The whole project was funded by grants from the from the Broadband Initiative Fund of the Maine Community Foundation and an anonymous donation.

The first workshops were about digital basics. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday, September 14, at 6 p.m. and will cover social media for local businesses.

According to Leighton, it is an opportunity for the self-employed or local business owners to learn how to show up in a Google search or how to establish and maintain a Facebook presence for the business.

“A lot of people own their own businesses in Penobscot,” Leighton said in explaining the rationale for the third workshop.

He also said that the workshop would be useful for nonprofits as well.

In November, a fourth session will focus on “anything you want to learn about” Zoom, the online conferencing software that has become so widely used during the pandemic.

The troubleshooting sessions can be about anything, Leighton said, from smartphones to accessibility issues for those who have certain limitations, be it eyesight or hearing or typing.

Leighton is the instructor for the sessions. He works remotely in marketing and video production.

He is a 2006 graduate of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill who was able to return to the area in 2018 because technology allows him to work remotely.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and has worked in video and photography, including teaching it, since college.

He is also active in outreach for the United Methodist Church, which is why the sessions are held there.

Leighton lives in Penobscot with his wife, Sarah, who also works remotely, he said. They have done so since 2018, before COVID.

Technology allows it, he said. Still, slow internet is a problem in this area for residential users.

But broadband is coming, he says. These workshops should help to prepare residents for the new technology that should be available to them by the end of the year, he added.

Enhanced digital literacy and the fastest internet available should help development in Penobscot and the whole Blue Hill peninsula, by bringing digital opportunities to areas where people want to live, if only they could make a living, Leighton said.

Peninsula-wide cooperation was a driving force in getting broadband here, he added.

The class schedule is subject to change. Find the latest changes at penobscottech.org. The classes will eventually be available online via Youtube, Leighton said.