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Web Tech Czar’s 1st Tech Journey to Madison County

On March 15th, Asheville 'Meet the Geeks' Marc Czarnecki embarked on a journey to the Laurel Community Center in Madison County to instruct on Gmail use on Windows 11 laptops. Madison County, NC is northwest of Buncombe County and paints a history rich in the meanings of Western North Carolina.

Tech Journey to the Laurel Community

On Friday March 15th ‘Meet the Geeks’ Marc Czarnecki takes a journey to Madison County.  The objective of this journey is to provide instruction on the use of Gmail on newly acquired Windows 11 laptops.  This journal-post references some of the experiences of Marc's tech journey.

It all starts on Friday morning, March 15 at 8:00 a.m. from Asheville, North Carolina.  The spring day is an unusual day in  March where there's a light rain starting and unusual thunder and lightning.  The drive from Asheville to Madison County leverages the use of Google Maps navigation on Marc's phone.  The journey took a surprise turn when Google Maps notified Marc that the primary navigation to the Laurel community center contains a closed road. Google Maps is advising me to investigate alternative routes. In placing a phone call to my Western North Carolina Communities contact, Susan; She informs Marc that she is 10-15 minutes ahead of Marc’s truck and has received the same detour notice from Google Maps, not knowing why the road is closed.

The detail of the Google Maps notification provides directions to take a detour starting on Lonesome Mountain Road. Susan indicates to me this is a super curvy Road in Madison County.  ‘Super curvy’ is an understatement on Lonesome Mountain Road as I had to use first and second gear on several parts of this curvy, paved road.  The morning fog and rain creates some awesome views of the Appalachian Mountains and some low-lying clouds adding a mystic beauty to Madison County. The Google Maps navigation ultimately leads Marc successfully to the Laurel Community Center on Highway 208 in Madison county.

The Laurel Community Center is a former Madison County School that has been successfully converted to a non-profit and a community center.  

One of the outside entrances contains an entry door labeled ‘French Broad Internet Room’ that provides free Wi-Fi and desktop self access.

Madison County Public School History

Upon entry at Laurel Community Center I am befriended by Cheoah and Ed who are the support staff at the community center.  They inform Marc they both were students at the Laurel Community Center when it was a public school.  This community center is an old school that once housed all students in the K-12 public education system of Madison County. The Laurel Community Center is a beautiful school that is restored to near mint condition along the Laurel Creek.

WNC Communities ‘Sticky Tech Wall’

As I enter the center, I clearly find the ‘Free Internet Access’ network name and password signage. 

After an introduction to Susan Garrett with WNC Communities, I find myself assisting her by putting up a ‘sticky wall.’  The sticky wall is a licensed ToPs or Technology of Participation’ program that she is going to facilitate.  

I find myself very intrigued by the use of sticky fabric used to facilitate ‘participation technology.’   

CORI Technology Classroom

Marc then get introduced to the CORI Room. CORI is an acronym for the ‘Center of Rural Innovation’ or Room 205 at the Laurel Community Center.  The CORI room is where I will facilitate ‘Madison digital leaders’ programming with the introduction of 15-in Hewlett-Packard Windows 11 laptops, Google Chrome app, and Gmail in Google Chrome.  The CORI room Is a well equipped large classroom with tables and electrical plugs along the wall, a printer, projector and an instructor’s table.

Just after 1:00 p.m., my Gmail class starts.  Being on a new computer with a new WiFi network we find many students struggling to sign-into Gmail, but eventually get most students signed into their Google’s email account.  A Gmail Google Slide presentation is facilitated by Marc with periodic demonstrations of my Gmail account.  Class one of six is completed with the next class scheduled for bookmarking and more about Gmail.  Homework for the students includes emailing 

Future Plans

Mary Fork, Gmail student then introduces Marc to her classroom which contains a raised viewing platform to the Laurel Creek.  Mary asks Marc about cyber-security in regards to her plans to establish a live ‘fish-camera’ in the waters of the creek and shares the photography and wall-postings of area fish.

Key Tech Learnings & Notes

What are Marc's technology learnings and notes from visiting the Laurel Community Center?
  • Visit Laurel Community Center website and on Google Maps and anticipate the potential for 'alternative routes.'
  • This article originated by using ‘voice typing’ in Google Docs and was improved with use of ChatGPT 4.0 Google doc upload.
  • WiFi and desktop computer access is possible at this community center from 7:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m.
  • The CORI classroom at LCC had 300 Mbps down and 300 Mbps broadband speed.
  • Laurel Community Center internet is true fiber broadband with speeds that exceed the new FCC 100/25 standards.
  • The future will include a live ‘fish camera’ of Laurel Creek with cyber-security considerations. 
  • A Community Center - Tech Forward
  • In summary I can attest to the value of visiting and experiencing the delightful Laurel Community Center in Madison County.  They have seeded a program that should be replicated in other community centers throughout the Western North Carolina area.

Author and photographer of this article, Marc Czarnecki.

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