As of August 30, The Bridging Tech Charitable Fund has officially reached our summer fundraising goal of providing 300 laptops to Hamilton Families, a service provider to homeless families living in San Francisco and Oakland. These past two months as a high school ambassador have been filled with research, fundraising efforts, social media posts, emails, reaching out to members of my own community, and writing about my passions outside of bridging the digital divide. It is gratifying to know that everyone apart of Bridging Tech will continue to learn and grow as we expand our efforts.
Since the first four high school ambassadors, three more members have joined in the past month; together we span freshmen, junior, and senior years. Once a week, the HSAs and our two cofounders, Isabel and Margot, meet to discuss updates, task lists, and our social media roles for the following week. Ambassadors are in charge of Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and writing and uploading website blogs. Within each social media, there is one designated channel leader that you can reach out to for help. Content on each account can vary: Instagram is all graphics, often a mix of current events and updates about our nonprofit, while LinkedIn is text based and may showcase articles relating to our cause. Social media is integral to our fundraising efforts, as in an age of a technological based society and COVID-19 social distancing, we source most, if not all, of our donations at a distance.
Because we are funded solely by the public and by some company donations, fundraisers within our respective communities are critical to fulfilling shelters’ needs. Ambassadors have used campaigns like delivery services, reading challenges, venmo requests, and marathon mile counters to spread awareness of the urgency of contributions. The relentless fund-sourcing of our cofounders and associates is the only reason we have been able to give every family in Hamilton Families their own laptop; next, our goal is to provide every individual child with their own device, as the challenges of sharing a device with your family also interferes with one’s education. All of us here at Bridging Tech thank you for your efforts to break cycles of poverty and uplift disadvantaged citizens.
Photo by Willie B. Thomas
As cases of Covid-19 continue to climb, it is inevitable that distance learning will be the new norm for students and teachers. “With the closure of schools in March 2020, more than nine million students did not have the high-speed home internet required for online learning.” The expanding digital divide is prompting many people to find new ways and ideas for students to get the help they need in order to succeed in school and their future work.
While giving students tech devices helps to bridge the digital divide, this also includes giving kids access to multiple ways in which they can learn and practice computational thinking. Students will need to be trained in necessary computational thinking in order to address future tasks with their technological skills. Recently, Apple “announced updates to its Everyone Can Code curriculum, which introduces students to the world of coding through interactive activities.” This program will be able to guide students all the way from writing their first lines of Swift codes to building their first apps. They teach kids to code that will enhance their math, creativity, communication, and imagination. This can build onto their technological skills and will help them be able to connect with others digitally.
Not only has Apple updated Everyone can Code curriculum, but they have recently launched the website, Learning from Home, “where educators and parents can access on-demand videos and virtual conferences on remote learning plus schedule free one-on-one virtual coaching sessions, all hosted by educators at Apple.” This can be very beneficial for both students and teachers to gain the technological skills to succeed and to better their learning experience.
With the next generation having to face the possibility of self-paced online learning, they will need the coding skills to meet new connections and computational skills. Through coding and learning computational thinking skills, this will help kids “develop digital literacies, including connections between issues and finding solutions” for the future benefit of our world.
As the United States grapples with the emergency of its own digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not alone in this struggle. In fact, countries all over the world have been dealing with this issue, and on a much larger scale for a long time. This difference in access to technology and the Internet, also known as the international digital divide, describes global disparities, primarily between developed and developing countries, in regards to access to computing and information resources such as the Internet and the opportunities derived from such access.
The concept of the digital divide was originally popularized due to the disparity in Internet access between rural and urban areas of the United States. However, the international digital divide is a special case of the digital divide, in that the focus is set on the fact that the Internet has developed unevenly throughout the world. The Internet is expanding very quickly, and not all countries—especially developing countries—are able to keep up with the speed of expansion. For example, data taken from the World Bank in 2017 shows the sheer difference in Internet access through the comparison of two countries. In Norway, a developed country, 96% of the population used the Internet. But in Somalia, a developing country, that percentage drops to only 2%.
The international digital divide has caused devastating effects, one of the worst being that it has caused some countries to fall behind in technology, education, labor, democracy, and tourism. In addition, computers and the Internet provide users with improved education, which can help them earn better jobs and higher wages. Unfortunately, this means that people living in nations with limited access therefore become disadvantaged.
On the global scale, the digital divide has turned from an important issue to a dire emergency. According to a 2017 UN report, it was revealed that more than 52% of people on the planet don't have access to the Internet or to a device. Here at Bridging Tech, our mission is to donate devices to those in need, whether they live right here in the Bay Area, or outside our international borders. In a world that has become increasingly reliant on technology, it is extremely important that we work to close the international digital divide. Without help, this gap in access to technology is at risk to become a yawning chasm.
After experiencing a record-breaking heat wave this past week, wildfires have now begun to plague California, spreading in the Napa and Sonoma Counties as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains. Massive plumes of smoke have settled above mountaintops, fouling the air quality and endangering public health. As California continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and unforeseen weather conditions, firefighters bear the brunt of the state’s unpredictable climate.
In a recent statement, California Governor Gavin Newsom and local fire officials stated that “the state’s firefighting resources are overextended.” Firefighters have been taking on 72-hour shifts, with little time for breaks or any frontline support. With the state’s resources dwindling lower and lower, California has officially appealed for aid not only from neighboring states but from the entire country. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, front lines and firetrucks can no longer carry more than one to two people, leaving these workers with little support when facing massive fires. The urgency of firefighting often leaves sanitation and health protocols as an afterthought, resulting in many workers to ignore COVID-19 precautions in the face of danger.
Wildfires have already torn through around 350,000 acres of land, forcing nearby residents to evacuate and burning around two-dozen homes. In efforts to support the influx of evacuees whose homes have been compromised, hotels and public housing are beginning to reopen. In addition to displacing people from their homes, the wildfires have also compromised air quality. People in close vicinity to the fires have even found their cars and driveways covered in ash and dust. Most areas in Northern California have passed 150 on the air quality index, making the air dangerously unhealthy to breathe. In context of the current pandemic, breathing in polluted air can compromise ones health and make them more susceptible to contract COVID-19. Respiratory symptoms from the fires and coronavirus can often overlap, so doctors recommend people experiencing these symptoms to isolate themselves as much as possible. Currently, the mass displacement and chaos of the recent fires has left Californians in a state of panic. As time progresses, we must take appropriate precautions to protect one another and commend those on the front lines during these tumultuous times.
Photo: Gavin Newsom and Tony Thurmond (LA Times)
The beginning of school has arrived for many kids in California, and many others are getting ready for it. This year, about 97% of children are going to be starting the year online due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions.
If schools reopen, they must have a waiver which involves a lengthy application process. However, since school has already started for some kids, that makes getting a waiver harder. Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered that any schools within the counties on a COVID-19 watchlist are not allowed to open up. Unfortunately in recent times it wasn’t updated and had additional data system errors, so 300,000 additional cases were not added.
Tony Thurmond, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, made the prediction that 700,000 kids don’t have access to devices. He also estimated that 300,000 don’t have access to the internet. This makes going to school impossible. On the bright side, 73,000 devices have been given out to those children. $5.3 billion in COVID-19 relief funds are also being used to help schools, such as purchasing technology for the students.
Even though some kids now have access to devices, many are still struggling and will likely fall behind during this upcoming school year. The effort to bridge the digital divide is stronger than ever, and especially pressing with the arrival of the school year. Check out the source linked below for more information.
Mail-in voting has become the center of controversy among Democrats and Republicans, with concerns being raised over the funding of the United States Postal Service and potential voter fraud. To understand the current dissension, we must first go back to May, when Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally and Republican donor, took over as Postmaster General and has been implementing cost-cutting measures in response to the USPS’ financial problems (which resulted in a $9 billion loss last year). These measures, including “slowed delivery, removed high-speed letter sorters from commission and a stark warning to election officials that mail-in ballots will no longer automatically be moved as priority mail,” have prompted Democrat criticism, who fear changes that could disrupt the November election. In a letter sent to DeJoy, Democrats assert that the “sweeping operational changes” he is making “could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail, jeopardize crucial deliveries such as prescription medicines and essential goods, and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming November elections.” True to their concerns, on August 14, the USPS “warned almost all of the 50 states and Washington, DC, that voters could be at risk of not getting their ballots back to election offices in time to be counted because election rules are not compatible with the time needed for delivery and return of absentee ballots through the mail.” In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now calling for voting on a bill to block the USPS from making any changes that could result in delayed service. Additionally, an oversight hearing for DeJoy scheduled for September has been moved up to next week.
Sticking to his attack on voter ballots, Trump has stated within the past week that mail-in voting results in voter fraud, despite no evidence that this is a widespread problem. He has also tweeted that voting by mail “doesn’t work out well for Republicans,” which many believe is why he opposes the $25 billion request for funding the USPS through a COVID-19 stimulus bill. As the situation develops, it is imperative we maintain the right to a safe and fair election, regardless of what changes must be taken to ensure that.
Photo by Loan-Anh Pham/ San Jose Spotlight
Earlier this week, Santa Clara County’s Continuum of Care put together a plan to end homelessness in the county. This plan has been in the making since 2015, but because of the global pandemic, implementing this plan is more urgent than ever. COVID-19 has left many economically uncertain, jobless, and without child care, causing more residents to become homeless. This public health crisis has called for a shelter in place order and more extreme preventative health measures. However, these orders are harder to meet for the homeless community.
The leading factor causing homelessness is the “extreme lack of housing options that are affordable for low-income residents.” According to a Public Policy Institute of California report, families making the lowest income levels in the Bay Area have 12 times less the income of the families at the highest income level. In fact, the income of “low wage” families has dropped by 12% in Santa Clara County in the last 5 years. Yet, that’s only one of the problems of affordable housing facing that group. In 2018, there were only 34 houses available for every 100 low-income workers in San Jose, meaning that the lack of affordable housing and low income makes it common for low wage families to be on the brink of homelessness.
Although the ages of homeless residents can be very diverse, the racial group isn’t. Hispanics, Native Americans, and African Americans together make up 30% of the general population in Santa Clara County. However, they also make up 68% of the homeless population in the county. Clearly, “racial inequities are a factor in driving homelessness” and people of color are more likely to experience it. The County hopes to address the racial bias in the system and make supportive housing programs more accessible and available to people of color.
In these past few months, these numbers have been rapidly increasing and it is expected that they will continue to rise. Over 80% of homeless residents are unsheltered and are sleeping in unstable places. And for every individual or family that is housed in the county, two or three more end up homeless. By 2025, there will be 20,000 more people who will become homeless if this trend continues. It is crucial that the County acts upon this now so that we don’t have to live this future.
County officials and leaders plan to help resolve this issue by housing 20,000 people in the next five years, preventing more people from ending up on the streets, and improving the quality of life in shelters and encampments. The plan includes expanding their homeless prevention program so that they can serve 2,500 people per year and increasing the construction of homes for the homeless. As for shelters, they will be doubling the number of beds and allowing residents to “ bring pets and store personal items at shelters, live in sanctioned homeless camps with access to hygiene and support services, and receive better access to housing services and support.” In addition, they will also be providing more resources and outreach to those on the street and those in danger of it.
Funding for this plan will come from Measure A( $950 million affordable housing bond passed in 2016), the city of San Jose, state & federal government, Santa Clara County, and private donors.
Ending homelessness is a big step for the county and the Bay Area. During this time, it is of the utmost importance that we are protecting those that are most vulnerable. This plan will be a great example and foundation for plans to come in ending homelessness in other regions in the Bay Area. Now, we can better imagine a Bay Area with brighter futures and lives.
Our new reality that has brought virtual school and online learning is unexpected to say the least. But you and may others are probably thinking, how long will this last? For the foreseeable future, many schools have decided to start the 2020-2021 school year online until further notice. This decision is all in part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between students and their families. Although temporary for now, some educators believe this is only the beginning for the future of learning. University College of Education professor William Watson argues that this temporary switch will possibly turn into a new reality. He argues that online learning provides personalized learning options for all students, allowing them to be most successful adding that "A personalized approach to learning supports student autonomy and the direction of each student’s learning process”. More importantly he suggests that the idea of more personalized learning systems will happen, online or not. He puts it as, “Ultimately, the move to personalized systems of education is a question of when, not if ".
With this in mind, the first thing that may come to mind is the millions of youth who might not have access to adequate technology to participate in online learning. This barrier brings a disadvantage for some youth to access the education that they deserve. Our mission here at Bridging Tech is to bridge the digital divide gap for children in homeless shelters. We would love your help in reaching our goal so students in need can start their school year prepared and confident. Learn how you can help by going to "About" and then "Get Involved".
Source: Herald Journal
Photo by LA Times
The digital divide is more prominent now more than ever. With school starting remotely in a few weeks, this escalates a greater need for students to have tech devices in which they can participate in online classes and be able to learn. Alone, the Covid-19 pandemic has “forced an estimated 97% of California’s 6.2 million students to resume their school year online.” We’ve seen how individuals and non-profit organizations are helping through monetary and tech device donations to help students in need. But how are big corporate companies implementing any efforts to help bridge the digital divide?
Recently, a press release from the California Department of Education announced that “Apple and T-Mobile are teaming up to provide California students with up to one million iPads.” With many schools experiencing shortages of tech devices to pull off distance learning, Apple and T-Mobile are fulfilling orders directly from districts. By the end of 2020, they expect to fulfill school district demand. Through Apple’s Professional Learning Team, they are lending a helping hand to California educators (e.g. teachers) by providing weekly virtual training sessions to accommodate any difficulties in transitioning smoothly to teach remotely. By offering one-to-one virtual coaching sessions and many creative techniques that can help with online learning, Apple’s Professional Learning Team can foster student’s virtual learning to be more effective. In more than 300 school districts nationwide, T-Mobile has connected hundreds of thousands of kids for online learning. Mike Katz, the EVP of T-Mobile for Business, states, “The pandemic has exposed just how widespread and detrimental the digital divide is for millions of children in this country … we’re committed to doing something about it, and we’re proud to partner with Apple to help the State of California connect up to a million students when they need it most.”
Big corporate companies using their power to help students receive the tech devices for virtual learning is a major contribution to bridging the digital divide we have today. Even using their voice to speak about the inequity of technology for students gives greater awareness of what is going in our world today. With having companies like Apple and T-Mobile to donate iPads to students, we can hope that more will follow suit and bring a bigger change for those in need.
Photo taken by Jessica Christian/The Chronicle
A new program called Homekey, based on Governor Newsom’s project Roomkey which rents places for homeless people, will be giving money to unused motels and hotels in order to provide housing for the homeless. Many motel and hotel owners aren’t doing well due to the pandemic and the drop in tourism, so they are considering selling their properties instead of waiting to reopen. Since people are considering selling, “San Francisco homeless policy leaders have said since early summer they are hoping to buy two or more hotels for conversion, and some leading players in the city’s Homekey process say several properties are in play.”
The goal at Homekey is to find buildings that are not too expensive to redo with a fair price. However, since rents have declined but real estate prices haven’t, this makes it harder to find good places to renovate. Additionally, there is a follow-up cost to supervise the building, making it more expensive. Nevertheless, Mayor London Breed and many others involved with Homekey and providing homes for the homeless have a positive outlook on the progress that can be made, particularly within San Francisco.
In total, Homekey has $600 million in grant funds for taking “local public entities, including cities, counties, or other local public entities, including housing authorities or federally recognized tribal governments within California to purchase and rehabilitate housing, including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing.”
Finding homes for the homeless is especially pressing during COVID-19 due to the possible exposure of homeless people, and $550 million of the $600 million in grant funds come from Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds. This issue has been emphasized and brought to light due to the pandemic, but hopefully it is also one that people will continue to focus on even after the pandemic. If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to read this article or visit the website for Homekey.
As time progresses, life amidst the pandemic has become more and more normalized. Schools have switched to an online format, and most outings are strictly for essential items. However, as COVID-19 continues to shape our lives, one of the largest ramifications of this virus, especially in the Bay Area, will be its effect on college admissions.
COVID-19 first came into effect around March, disrupting standardized testing dates and the spring grading system. College applications have long been centered around standardized testing, usually weighting admissions off of SAT or ACT marks and AP test scores. As a result of the pandemic, the College Board has cancelled a lot of these testing dates, failing to offer SAT or ACT testing since the virus hit. Universities all around the US have recognized this issue, and many have waived SAT and ACT requirements. The University of California system, better known as the UC's, have even gone as far as to say that they’re phasing out the requirement for standardized testing altogether. As for AP testing, the College Board released a shortened version of the test for each subject that students took online. The usual AP test was a 2-3 hour multiple choice and free response test, while the new version was an hour long test tailored differently for each subject. Many students reported the site crashing during their test or malfunctions that prohibited them from turning in their work. University admissions have always been in tandem with College Board scores and standardized testing. However, as the virus continues to take its course, colleges are slowly placing less importance on test scores and focusing more on extracurricular work and essays.
In addition to this, high schools are considering changing their grading systems. Some are considering a pass/fail policy for all grades while others are using grade flooring, a system where student grades cannot drop from what they already are and can only increase.
As times continue to change, we can only guess at what the coming college admissions season will be like. Whether colleges will bar international students, or ignore grades altogether is still up for question. The pandemic has challenged colleges to rethink their admissions system and forced them to adopt policies that will make the application process more doable. Hopefully these changes will shepherd our education system into a more equitable one where learning is accessible to all.
In the last few weeks, many parents have raised their concerns about school this upcoming fall. If it happens in person, it might not feel safe. If it happens remotely, their children’s learning might be inadequate. In order to find a better solution, parents around the country have started organizing pandemic pods, or “home schooling pods, for the fall, in which groups of three to 10 students learn together under the tutelage of the children’s parents or a hired teacher.”
Pandemic pods could provide families with a school option that is safe, yet fun for their children. In some situations, it may even provide child care while they are working at home. However, pods are expensive, hard to organize, and self-selecting, making them most popular among families of privilege, which worsens educational inequality. For parents who can organize pods and who are able to afford them, pods are an easy choice.
One example of these pandemic pods is occurring here in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, pods organized by Red Bridge School cost $2500 per child per month for a pod size of five. While financial aid is available, this isn’t applicable for all pandemic pods that are beginning to take shape. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that many lower-income families--whose children could fall behind by more than a year due to low-quality to no remote instruction and lack of access to the internet or a digital device—just aren’t able to afford to enter their children into pods.
What most families do is start from a place of self-interest. They ask themselves how to do what’s best for their family, and how to do what’s best for their children. And families who have greater sets of resources tend to use those resources to hoard educational opportunities. Unless something isn’t done to create an equitable solution for children’s learning that is accessible for all, the most well-off families will self-segregate according to privilege, allowing their children to benefit from their wealthy upbringing and leaving children of lower-income families behind.
The 2020 election will shape America’s policy for the next four years, solidifying the ideals and beliefs we as a nation hold to be true. In such a tumultuous time, candidates must prove to their people that they are best equipped to run a country that is divided on many pivotal topics. The Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, and the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, have been campaigning for months amidst ignited race relations and a global pandemic that the US is undoubtedly struggling in. With these issues on the table, who is best suited to lead Americans in coming years?
One important aspect being discussed in terms of Biden’s candidacy is who he will choose to be a vice president. This process and selection will “indirectly influence voter choice by changing perceptions of the presidential candidate — which, in turn, changes votes” (Devine and Kopko). In Biden’s case this might mean a young VP to counter perceptions of his age, a progressive one like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, or a Black one that speaks to his value of diversity. Nichols of Axios writes that “The way Biden is searching for a vice president suggests a careful and methodical approach, the opposite of Trump's style. But it also reveals a strong fear of the consequences of making the wrong choice.” Biden has stated that all of his potential running mates are women and at least four are Black. Some of those Black women are believed to be “Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Val Demings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Rep. Karen Bass, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and former national security adviser Susan Rice” (McCammond). Biden’s final decision was slated to be announced the first week of August, but sources say this is unlikely- if not the first week, Biden has confirmed that his choice will be made at least before the Democratic convention. Regardless of which woman he chooses, the results will be historic. Americans will ultimately decide in the voting polls if this selection will result in Biden’s win over Trump.