Photo by Healthline
It has been nine months since US schools have closed down in March. During the 2019-2020 school year, schools did not resume in-person instruction and continued to navigate through remote learning. However, after observation and learning what works best, administrators have formulated more structured and advanced plans for the 2020-2021 school year. Many schools are trying their best to create plans that focus on providing and utilizing the best resources for students to be able to continue distance learning, while also receiving a quality education. Several schools have been moving forward as far as integrating back to in-person instruction. But with the rise of COVID-19 cases and the lack of resources some schools provide to their students, the remainder of the school year remains uncertain and will be planned out cautiously.
Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, announced this Sunday that he plans on reopening public elementary schools. However, he plans to keep middle schools and high schools closed. As of now, students will be returning to campus on December 7, abandoning the 3 percent test positivity threshold that was implemented before this new system. The positivity rate has reached 3.9% as of Sunday, yet he says he wants “this to be the plan going forward” as they work hard to bring them back safely. Both Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and de Blasio have faced criticism from parents who are worried about their children. But, as de Blasio mentions, “we know what works from actual experience”, and New York City is making their best efforts to bring back their students as safe as possible.
In the Bay Area, the transition back to in-person instruction has been slower in order to ensure the safest way for children to attend school. Although many schools in the Bay Area are not returning back to campus, some are practicing in-person instruction and implementing precautions and regulations. This includes wearing masks, social distancing, setting up hand washing stations, installing good ventilation, and creating pod groups to limit the exposure to others. Even some are holding conditioning for athletics after school a few times a week. Although some schools in the Bay Area are reopening, mainly private schools, most schools are not. In San Francisco specifically, “The district’s answer is that it is not ready to reopen.”
In Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Hellman, a 26 year old kindergarten teacher, talks about her experience returning to in-person instruction. With “More than 70,000 schoolchildren” who “left Baltimore classrooms in March”, this reopening leaves both families and staff unsure about what is to come. Ms. Hellman explains that her students for the most part are fairly good at remembering to keep their mask on as to stay away from the “bad germ” - as one student calls it. Assessment rooms are cleaned every day on the hour, every hour. She mentions that “Her only concern was that her remote learners were missing the banter and nonverbal cues her students were getting in the classroom.” But, after the first day of returning to campus with only 6 students, the next day there were an extra 19 students who were previously learning virtually.
The spike in the number of COVID-19 cases due to holiday gatherings creates a blocking figure for educators and families, influencing their plans to return. With the coming few weeks, the plans will become a little clearer, but will still remain very uncertain as we dive into an unknown future. As schools are returning, they are implementing rules like wearing a mask, doing frequent and rigorous COVID testing, installing good ventilation systems, maintaining 6 feet apart, washing hands and sanitizing often, cleaning areas daily, staying in pods, and attending in-person instruction only a few times a week. The main drives to return to campus are the social interaction and the more accessibility and availability of resources, both for receiving help on classwork/homework and for students who don’t have access to online learning devices, that are just not obtainable at home.
If the spike in COVID cases results in schools being forced to shut down again or schools remaining to be closed, this could leave a devastating impact on students who do not have access to online learning devices. As Maria Su, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Children, says, “We have children who are missing 90 assignments”, which unquestionably demonstrates the need to provide an equitable education to all students, first starting off with giving them online learning devices to continue school virtually.
This year to come, we will be venturing into something very new, just as we have been in the past few months. But from experience, learning how to take advantage of resources, and finding solutions to issues blocking students and staff from receiving and providing quality education, we can take our first few steps in moving forward.
With the election only about a week away, Americans are submitting early ballots at a record-breaking level; demonstrating voters are looking forward to making their vote count in unprecedented times. So far, Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s respective policies have been laid out, debated, and defended extensively over these past few months. One contentious topic, especially as millions of students from K-12 are learning online, is how each candidate and their following four year term will confront the issue of the digital divide.
Under the Trump administration, in January the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a $20 billion implementation to build broadband in rural communities. However, the Trump Administration has also cut Lifeline, which supports families who make less than 135% of the poverty line with a $9.25 monthly subsidy towards their cell or internet bill (and an additional $25 discount for those who qualify and live on tribal land). Lifeline is the only federal program specifically designed to connect low-income people. Under Trump, the program’s budget has been cut in half and applications have gone down by 40% as a result of the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s actions that complicate applicants’ and providers’ participation in the program.
On the other hand, Biden’s plan includes adding another $20 billion to increasing rural broadband and passing the Digital Equity Act. This act would essentially provide $1.25 billion over five years to create two digital equity federal grant programs that focus on underserved populations, on a federal and state level.
Trump and Biden’s differences in policy will define the digital divide’s future, determining the lives of countless students as concerns about the pandemic, vaccines, and online vs in-person learning fluctuate.
Photo by USA.gov
The 2020 United States Presidential election is on November 3! All over the media, there is a continuous buzz over this election. But why is it such a big deal and what exactly does it mean for our country, our communities, and our personal lives? We encourage you to read this article to learn more about the election and do further research on your own if you are still uncertain about any of the topics regarding the 2020 US presidential election. We recommend checking out the official US election website.
So what exactly is a presidential election and what does my vote do? The U.S presidential election is where “citizens of the United States who are registered to vote in one of the fifty U.S. states or in Washington, D.C., cast ballots not directly for those offices, but instead for members of the Electoral College.” This means that citizens are not directly voting for the president, but a group of people who are appointed by each state to then elect the president and vice president. This process is called the Electoral College. There are 538 electors in total, each representing a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, plus 3 electors from the District of Columbia. The population of each state influences the number of electoral votes they get. The candidate with a higher percentage of votes in a specific state gets all of the electoral votes for that state(this all-or-nothing process does not apply to two of the fifty states), and the other candidate gets 0 electoral votes from that state, even if it was a close call. Sometimes, a candidate can win the popular vote, but not gain at least 270 electoral votes. The candidate that gains at least 270 electoral votes wins the presidency.
Now we know how votes are counted, but how do we choose who to vote for? This year, our two candidates are Donald Trump and Joe Biden. “The US political system is dominated by just two parties,” the Republicans, the conservative political party, and the Democrats, the liberal political party. The basic difference between the two parties is that Republicans believe in a “smaller”, weaker federal government where the federal government plays less of a role in our lives, while Democrats believe in a stronger, “bigger” federal government that plays a bigger role in the lives of its people. We highly recommend you do more research on what these two parties, and more specifically these two candidates, stand for if you do not already have a solid understanding.
Where can I vote? First, make sure that you are registered to vote. Visit this link to register to vote if you haven’t already. Due to COVID-19, there may not be as many polling places near you and they won’t be the same as they have been in the previous years(for safety precautions). As a result, many people are voting by mail-in absentee ballots. Note that in California, all citizens registered to vote will be mailed a ballot(no later than 29 days prior to November 3). Click this link to learn more about how you can vote this year.
Why should I vote? Voting is one of the most important rights granted to U.S citizens because it allows them to play a role in the type of leaders, representatives, and government they want to see in their country. Voting allows you to choose leaders who stand for things that are important to you and make the changes you want to see in your personal life, community, and country. Every single vote counts! In 2000, “Bush won Florida by 0.009 percent of the votes cast in the state, or 537 votes.” This example shows how close elections can get and how just a couple of votes can change the president that serves for the next four years and the course of history.
At Bridging Tech, educational equity is one of our core values. We strongly believe that every child should have access to a quality education that allows them to achieve their academic dreams. In order to fight the educational inequities prevalent in our society, we have to make changes to the education system at a nationwide level. This means that by evaluating our candidates’ values, policies, plans, and what they stand for, we can put our votes towards making the changes we want to see in our country.
The more people that vote, the more change that is created. #VotingMatters
Visit https://www.usa.gov/voting for all the information on the presidential election.
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.
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.
School districts across the United States are considering whether or not to restart in-person school classes, weighing in the factors and the consequences that may hold for their students, teachers, and families. They are challenged by many fundamental uncertainties, including that no nation has tried to send kids back to school with COVID-19 raging at levels such as America's, and the lack of research and limited understanding about the transmission in classrooms.
Recently, the World Health Organization concluded that the COVID-19 virus is airborne in crowded and indoor spaces with poor ventilation. This is concerning for many as this fits the description of American schools, thus pertaining to the worry of students going back to school in person. However, there is an enormous pressure that is brought upon students to return to schools from President Donald Trump.
An important variable comes into play when deciding whether schools should reopen or not: how widespread the virus is in the community overall. This will affect how many people potentially bring it into school and the amount of people who are likely to get sick with the virus. Due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and the uncertainty of the future, most school districts have decided to do full distance-learning, and some are planning to do a hybrid between online and in-person learning. Physical distancing and wearing masks in schools can make a huge difference in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Since most schools are planning to do some sort of distance learning, this poses a greater need for children to get the technology they need during this time of physical and emotional distress. Many low-income families do not have the expenses to buy a device, which makes it extremely hard for children to get the necessary learning experience. This lack of technology not only affects students’ inability to complete school assignments, but it also leads them to become unprepared to apply for jobs and other applications. To help bridge the digital divide and to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to acquire academic success, Bridging Tech is able to connect those who do not have technology access by supplying them digital devices. Through working together and helping children to gain a better educational learning, this creates more equity for all students to have access to a virtuous education.
Black Lives Matter, which involves countless petitions, a coalition of social media efforts, and an estimated 15 million to 26 million protestors, has become one of the largest movements in American history. Activists continue to pioneer for long-overdue civil rights through their respective contributions- one pivotal way being the creation of nonprofits concentrated on racial inequality or the growth of black communities. While these organizations provide a welcome service, it is important to also recognize nonprofits that aided black lives long before the movement made headlines. One example is BlackGirlsCode, which has focused on introducing girls of color to computer coding and STEM since 2011. The organization plans to “provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040.” This ambitious endeavor not only addresses a severe lack of diversity in technology-based jobs, but allows for the closing of gender gaps in typically male-dominated roles.
Additionally, BlackGirlsCode acknowledges the digital divide and its harmful cyclical effects on communities of color, especially in locations across America where technology is a necessity. In order for the organization to build digital literacy, they must have devices to begin with. Their website writes that “sadly, San Francisco’s digital divide falls along the same racial and social fault lines that characterize so many of society’s issues. White households are twice as likely to have home Internet access as African American houses.” In a diversified space such as San Francisco, disadvantaged, often minority children, must have devices and the bandwidth to use that technology in order to succeed. Without the same opportunities as their peers and classmates, social and economic mobility becomes close to impossible. When nonprofits such as The Bridging Tech Charitable Fund supply devices, while BlackGirlsCode teaches minority children how to use said technology, communities are elevated through the efforts of society as a whole.
As the tech industry astronomically grows in the Bay Area, it is no surprise that laptops and tablets have become an integral part of classroom learning. In America alone, the educational computer-and-software market has grown to reach a $21 billion evaluation, and Silicon Valley took advantage of this surge.
Tech executives saw the monetary advantages of incorporating devices in everyday learning and worked to make it a reality. After contacting school officials and decision-makers, tech entrepreneurs have created a way of schooling, with technology being vital for learning. Companies such as HP and Microsoft have made hundred-million-dollar deals with school districts in an effort to incorporate their products in everyday schooling. Laptops and tablets are used in math and reading lessons, and homework often takes the form of online quizzes or assignments.
This sudden incline in tech-based learning has opened up a world of inequity and disadvantage for children not already associated with tech. With other states and countries following California’s tech-based learning example, children without the means or knowledge to learn virtually are the most adversely affected. This new schooling system fails to acknowledge children without suitable learning devices at home, or parents without the digital literacy skill to help their children complete assignments.
Having a stable internet connection and home life have become a prerequisite for learning, and while these new policies benefit the majority, often the children who cannot adhere to new learning standards are left behind. The chances of disadvantaged students rising out of such school systems is low, and they cannot be expected to achieve their goals when placed in an environment that sets them up to fail. Providing students with the supplies and opportunities for a fair learning experience begins with bridging the digital divide. We must work to create a new age of technology and learning where the convenience and benefits of digital learning helps all, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances.
Ever since I was young, I have noticed that the Bay Area was steeped with people from various ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. I was surrounded with peers who lived in a different environment than I, who often had to face difficult challenges. Although I did hear about the digital divide, I did not realize how large in magnitude the issue was until I started to teach piano to underprivileged kids in the Bay Area. I joined Little Mozart, a program that my piano teacher initiated in which all of her graduated piano students would have the chance to teach kids who did not have the expenses to pay for piano lessons. This program provides free lessons and pianos, allowing kids a chance to learn more about music without the fear of money getting in the way. As I delved further into teaching piano, I discovered more of the difficulties my students had to face on a daily basis. Some of them came in late due to their parents’ work, and most could not understand English well. Through teaching piano, I realized how socioeconomic status reduces the opportunities for kids to learn and to grow to their full potential. It stood out to me that our community should provide more to help these children.
COVID-19 changes our lives tremendously and sets a new normal. Recognizing I could do more for our community, I co-founded a not for profit organization called LiveWell Care Packages. We provide free care packages for those in need during this difficult time, especially to low-income families. Through learning about how much these families enjoyed our care packages, it has led me to want to help underprivileged kids in a greater capacity, which guided me to BridgingTech. Working as a Bridging Tech High School Ambassador has given me the opportunity to supply children with tech devices during this pandemic. Being able to promote equitable learning for disadvantaged children in the Bay Area by improving tech access is a major step to bridging the digital divide in America. I am proud to be part of a major initiative to ensure that all students have the resources to engage in online learning.
Recent nationwide developments have forced a spotlight onto America’s inequities, allowing for the birth of new systems, braver generations, and a more accepting space for those most marginalized. Despite the large strides taken, by no means is our work completed - systemic racism perpetuates our society everywhere from generational poverty cycles to normalized microaggressions.
Bridging Tech strives to rectify an inequality exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic; a disparity that has always been inherent but is now unmistakable in an age of social distancing and online learning. This problem, coined as the digital divide, is the difference between families who have internet connection and access to tech devices, and those who do not. Students in the latter families suffer as a result, and the rift spawned from this divide, the homework gap, is born.
A lack of means to access the internet limits opportunities to learn, making it difficult to complete assignments, obtain necessary information, and be academically successful. Personally, I can attest to the technological advantages privileged students are afforded over other low-income teens, as I currently attend a private high school in which every student has an iPad on them at all times. Small things that seem unremarkable to me such as a designated IT desk or homework assigned over Zoom calls are impossible in public schools that have to account for their students who may be left behind.
Most alarming are the cyclical effects of these disadvantages, in which minority kids and teens without devices score lower on standardized tests than their wealthier peers and suffer from lower graduation rates. When these students never received the opportunity to succeed in the first place, it becomes less and less likely that the children and grandchildren in these low income families will get better chances than those who came before them. It’s time for a new age of tech in the Bay - one where a student, regardless of their family’s financial status, can achieve what any other kid growing up in Silicon Valley can.
Growing up in San Jose, I was surrounded by the most diverse set of peers - all shaped by different experiences as well as varying socioeconomic and racial identities. I saw my privileged friends agonizing over what shoes they’d buy at the mall later, but I also witnessed some of my classmates deal with familial and financial hardships that seemed alien to me. This divide in my classmates and friends helped me realize that I was at the center of an acute economic and digital divide.
Events such as the recent pandemic and social justice movements have only emphasized the injustices and inequities in our current world. They have exposed the digital divide - the gap between people who have constant access to devices and a remote Internet connection and the people who don’t. This gap is often defined by varying social classes as well as racial and cultural identity.
Attending school in the Bay Area has put me in a unique position where I’ve been able to observe how cutting edge technology has greatly improved life, but disadvantaged others who don’t have the financial means to afford these devices. It’s also helped me realize that we have both the financial and material means to close this divide that prevents some from receiving an equal and fair chance at an education. Bridging this gap will break cycles of poverty, often connected to racial or religious backgrounds, and help provide all with the opportunity to learn.
Bridging Tech takes a direct approach at closing this gap, by using donations to provide children in homeless shelters with suitable learning devices - especially helpful as most learning has recently moved online. Every day, the inequity caused by the digital divide deepens, and we must work to close this gap and supply all with their fundamental right to an education.