The First Step Computer Literacy Project Points People in the Right Directions 0

We are all aware of how much the world has changed since the advent of the Internet, but the fact remains that every day we are still learning about how the Internet has changed everything.

One of the things the Internet has changed forever are the ways that people communicate. Traditional mail is too slow. Even overnight mail is too slow. Same-day mail wouldn’t make a difference because what people demand today is instantaneous communication.

One of the burdens that the Internet imposes on users is that it has impressed upon everyone how important it is to type email addresses exactly the same way because, if the email address isn’t right, that message is never going to get to where it was supposed to go.

By the same token, the increased demands that we communicate instantaneously also requires a greater facility with keyboards, pointing devices, graphics and with the English language itself.

Once upon a time, people were judged to a very large extent on how they dressed. Today, you are more likely to be judged by what you say, and how you say it in writing.  In a world where getting a job, finding a place to live, and even getting an education requires above average computer skills, not having these skills is very likely to relegate you to the fringes of society with very little chance of ever breaking on through to the other side.

We want to change all that, not for everyone (although we wish we could) but very specifically for recovering substance abusers, former prison inmates in the process of reintegration into society, and anyone else who has been failed by the primary and secondary educational systems in the United States.

Very simply, we want to educate the disadvantaged to enable them to function in this new computer-centric society that we have created, so that they understand how to use the hardware, which software to use for which purpose, and how to actually use it. At the same time, we HAVE to teach them the rules that control this new computer-centric society to make sure that they don’t get themselves into trouble because they don’t understand how the online world operates, or how they are supposed to operate within it.

In order for us to accomplish this purpose, we needed a metaphor that would lead to a paradigm, an activity that would be so interesting that it would compel them to learn what they needed to know in order to accomplish that activity.

We found that metaphor. You’re looking at it. Tellus News Digest was designed from the ground up to be friendly to people who have no computer background, no literary background and often lack even the basic composition skills one would expect from a high school graduate.

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Our theory is very simple. We all know that people like to talk about themselves. We’re usually our favorite topic, and our second favorite topic is almost always each other.  We love to talk about ourselves and each other but, often, we don’t want to listen to what is being said, sometimes because it is too disturbing, but often merely because it is too repetitive.

So, here’s Tellus News Digest, a for-real, online publication filled with republished stories from reputable news outlets, along with original writing from highly skilled journalists…and we are going to give the students in the First Step Computer Literacy Project the carte blanche opportunity to work one-on-one with experienced professional editors to learn how to write copy and how to tell a convincing story based on factual evidence….and then see their stories published out there in the real world, or at least the online version of the real world. 

In other words, we are giving the First Step participants the opportunity to tell their stories to each other, and to the world at large, while making sure that they don’t get themselves into trouble while they are learning the ropes.

We’re not suggesting that First Step participants are going to break into mainstream journalism. That’s not our goal. Our goal is to teach them how to use computers, and how to express themselves in an appropriate manner, so that they can find well-paying positions in a world that now requires a great deal of computer knowledge.

We’ve been developing this model for more than two years now. We have a fully functional website that is designed to be an editorial news site. We have a fully fleshed out curriculum that describes exactly how we are going to be able to teach the courses required for certification as a Tellus News Digest correspondent or editor online through an on-demand library of recorded courses, while also providing one-on-one tutelage for each student as he or she passes through the system.

The net results from this program may include the following:

  1. Increased self-esteem among the students who complete the program
  2. The acquisition of basic computer skills
  3. Familiarity with major productivity software packages
  4. A knowledge and understanding of how the Internet operates and how to operate on the Internet
  5. The ability to provide a resume that includes substantial experience in a professional writing and editing environment
  6. Job references that are essential for people who are trying to put their past truly behind them and get on with their lives.
  7. Actual stipends for worked performed while writing and editing for Tellus New Digest
  8. And, for those who qualify, an opportunity for equity participation as a Tellus News Digest partner

But most importantly of all, participation in this program will give former prison inmates, recovering substance abusers and other who have been marginalized  by society an opportunity to re-integrate with the larger world in a more meaningful manner than might otherwise be unavailable to them.

So that’s our agenda, building a nonprofit organization to help these people gain the skills and experience they need to reconnect with the world, while using a for-profit organization to generate real life income for our members.

Beyond learning how to tell their stories, students will learn how to tell the stories of others and write about events in such a way as to inform and influence. This is not just a skill, but an art; one that can often make the difference between a good communicator and a great one. When a writer can tell a story in such a way that it influences the thoughts and emotions of another then they have the ability to truly change the world.

We want those who participate in this program to have the opportunity show that they have something to say and that they can say it in a way that will have this kind of influence. We want them to change attitudes about former drug abusers and prisoners by showing that these men and women are not the “lowlifes” of society, but are people who have meaningful things to say. We also want them to learn to take a more world-centric view, to learn to write about events and people in such a way that they will learn how people’s choices and attitudes can influence and effect far more than just that individual.

For more information about the corporate structure of Tellus News Digest, please visit The Tellus Manifesto.

For more information about the First Step Computer Literacy Project, please contact or

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