Our Digital Learning Initiative empowers our students to harness the power of technology and connectivity to be able to participate in online learning and develop crucial 21st-century skills. The ultimate goal of our initiative is to bridge the digital divide and provide equitable access to our students who would not have access otherwise. Our initiative helps in the following ways:
We partner with the City of Los Angeles and the Angeleno Connectivity Trust to provide hundreds of hotspots each year to our students who would otherwise not be able to connect online. We also partner with Internet companies such as Bel Air Internet Connect to provide high-speed Internet access to our shelters and sites throughout Southern California. Due to the ongoing challenges our students face, we are constantly seeking resources and support to bridge the connectivity divide and ensure our students have uninterrupted Internet access.
Our Level Up Digital Literacy Program provides our students with essential skills to participate in digital spaces and succeed in school and beyond. Topics covered by the program include evaluating internet sources, composing documents, protecting personal data, and respectfully participating in online conversations. In today’s digital world, nearly every career requires digital communication in some capacity, so equipping our students with the skills to effectively and responsibly find, evaluate, communicate, and share online content is key to their futures.
We partner with STEAM-focused (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) companies and organizations to provide our students with tools, resources, and activities to engage in hands-on, project-based learning and develop key 21st-century skills.
We provide access to digital learning programs that engage students, fill academic gaps, and teach critical technology skills. The programs include Freckle (for math and English Language Arts adaptive learning), myOn (for e-book access), Beats Unlocked (for coding and music production), and virtual field trips. Our tutors use our programs during their sessions and can track their students’ usage and progress using robust coaching and reporting features.
Beginning in 2014, we began opening Digital learning Centers at shelters, schools, and motels to give out students access to robust technological tools, high-speed Internet, digital learning, and educational resources. These centers are adaptable and can be designed with any combination of tools and programs based on specific student needs per location. As of March 2020, these centers are temporarily closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Online tutoring is the process of tutoring in a live, online classroom in which students and tutors interact through audio, video, and a shared whiteboard. Established in 2014 in response to the need to reach students located beyond our in-person service areas, online tutoring has become a central part of our organization since the COVID-19 outbreak. We are proud to partner with BigBlueButton to provide online tutoring sessions to thousands of students each year.
While 83% of children ages 3 to 18 have access to a laptop or computer device at their primary residence, only 19% of children ages 3 to 18 experiencing homelessness do. When the COVID-19 crisis began, we witnessed firsthand the increasing impact that this digital divide had on our students. According to the Pew Research Center, 46% of lower-income parents whose children’s schools were closed during COVID-19 reported that their child (a) had to complete schoolwork on a cell phone, (b) had to utilize public wi-fi to finish schoolwork, and/or were simply unable to finish their schoolwork due to a lack of access to reliable wi-fi.
The purpose of our Device Distribution Program is to provide our students with laptops, tablets, and hotspots if they are unable to obtain one through their school districts. With access to stable wi-fi and their own device, our students can develop crucial digital literacy skills, complete their schoolwork and online assignments, and connect with a tutor through our online tutoring program. Since March of 2020, and in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we have provided over 1,100 devices to students.