2006-07-28 / Community

Phattime Making Big Plans For Computer Education

By Roseanne Honan

A pioneering computer literacy organization is making strides to offer computer educational tools and teaching programs to high schools and colleges, with aspirations to expand to the Rockaways and beyond.

The Wave recently spoke with Phattime's Director of Human Services and Far Rockaway resident, Yvonne Williams, who shares in the vision of a large-scale computer literacy campaign. According to Williams, "Everything is coming into place."

Phattime, a computer technology organization developed six years ago by Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) college professor Alvin Rogers, is finally breaking ground on new projects and developments. One major goal is to bring student teachers into high school and college classrooms.

Williams, who will be a junior at FIT this fall, also works as a student teacher for Phattime. Concerned with community activism, Williams, 20, was searching for a program that would benefit the Rockaways. While Phattime's student teaching programs are concentrated in Manhattan for now, Williams understood the importance of connecting with an established organization that could eventually extend to other boroughs, particularly her hometown.

What appealed to Williams was Phattime's mission to empower students, who may not have many opportunities, with important tools of the computer trade. The student teaching program, part of the Phattime umbrella, is a not-for-profit organization that relies on support from FIT, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and other sponsors.

Based out of FIT, Phattime also provides tutorials through their website, Phattime.com. The computer tutorials range from computer basics to sophisticated computer software, such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Students can upload the tutorials, which allow them to learn different technologies and apply them to their daily lives.

However, Williams stressed the importance of student teachers gaining access to students in the classrooms, not just through computer screens. Phattime's goal is to not only provide a service, but develop a community of dedicated high school and college students that will continue to grow with the organization. "We hope to infiltrate colleges and high schools and set up programs within them," said Williams. "Whether it's a 15-hour program, 30-hour program, or after school program, schools can decide what their budgets can call for." Incentives are provided to the students who dedicate themselves to the programs. An example of one incentive is business cards that are printed for Phattime members, rewarding their commitment. "It may be something small, just a piece of paper, but it's something that's tangible, something that is theirs," said Williams.

The idea of personal responsibility is an important aspect of Phattime. One recent venture was a seminar with Fidelity Bank representatives, who discussed smart investing with students. Students learned how to become financially independent and responsible by keeping track of their personal expenditures, mingling computer knowledge learned through Phattime. Chase Bank also sponsored a program where students were set up with free checking accounts, so they could invest their money wisely.

At Phattime, there are no excuses. Participants learn to make their own choices. "Make what you have work for you in a positive way," Williams explained.

Phattime's first large scale event, hosted at the Samsung Experience Center at the Time Warner Building in Manhattan on July 21, involved competing teams of students (24 participants in total) in a question and answer game that tested their computer know-how.

Prizes included MP3 players, t-shirts and portable USB plug drives. "The event showcases what we've done so far with the teaching," said Williams.

With these events,Phattime hopes to entice sponsors to help them expand. Williams has also been in contact with Rockaway political figures, and has gone to local meetings to make the organization's intentions and goals known.

Phattime is also reaching out to various communities. They created a computer literacy survey and asked residents what they thought were core problems with computer education. Recently, Phattime executive club members headed to Washington Heights to speak with members of the community to pinpoint the needs of local students. Conducting surveys is another clear example of Phattime's take-charge philosophy. "It's about helping each other help ourselves," said Williams, who also noted plans to study other neighborhoods in the near future.

Phattime is also in talks with Princeton Hall Publishers to create a teaching manual for their curriculum.

While Phattime is still a fledgling organization, their goals are clear and their members enthusiastic. The opportunities of the program go beyond a classroom setting, offering exposure to possible career paths. With future support from sponsors, they could expand to benefit thousands of students. And once the skills are learned, the knowledge is theirs to utilize. "It's up to them. We tell them how to use the tools, then they decide. But they have this knowledge that can't be taken away from them," said Williams.

For more information about Phattime, visit their website, Phatime.com; for more on Phattime's student teaching program, contact Williams at Yvonne_Williams@ phattime.com.

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