Posted on September 19, 2023 by William Yuk
The fast-paced digital revolution sweeping the education landscape has proven to be a double-edged sword, redefining efficiency and connectivity within the classroom experience for some while leaving behind others without access to technology.
“The pandemic has pushed education forward into embracing technology at a faster rate than we were originally going at,” says Dr. John Tung, a principal at Arcadia Unified School District’s Rancho Learning Center School in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. “Now we have a lot of educators who’ve experienced the benefits of having technology in the classroom.”
However, he also raises a crucial concern: “We’re able to provide all of that in the schools, but we don’t know the consistency of that access at home.”
In fact, studies show that 25% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 did not have access to computers or high-speed internet. As technology becomes increasingly essential in education, students lacking reliable internet and devices may face difficulties completing online assignments, participating in virtual classes, and accessing educational resources, contributing to a growing digital divide.
To address this issue, we’ve partnered with one of the nation’s fastest-growing wireless providers, TruConnect, to launch a unique initiative that brings technological resources to those who need them the most. Over the past few months, we’ve traveled around the country to distribute tablets equipped with internet access, along with our game-changing mental wellness platform, to families eligible for the federally-funded Affordable Connectivity Program.
“In today’s day and age, we must prioritize both intellectual and mental well-being in schools– you can’t have one without the other,” says SoundMind founder and CEO Travis Chen. “By partnering with TruConnect, we created one of the very first initiatives that equips students with the tools for both so that they can truly flourish in an educational setting.”
Our first stop on our journey was in sunny Arcadia, California, where our tablet program was met with high enthusiasm and engagement by the families of Arcadia Unified School District.
“Almost 150 families received tablets, and we only reached out to 300-plus families so it’s a pretty high percentage of participation in my opinion,” said Tung. “I think a lot of families got to take advantage of what we had to offer.
Hopping from one coast to another, we landed in the charming city of Rochester, New York. There, our tablets were instrumental in furthering Rush-Henrietta Central School District’s commitment to bridging the digital divide.
“One of the district’s priorities is equity and inclusion, and this initiative helps to support those efforts by providing reliable connectivity to more families,” said Mr. Joe Jackson, Director of Wellness and Equity at Rush-Henrietta Central School District based in the Rochester, NY area. “During the pandemic, it became clear that some students did not have reliable internet access at home.”
At the core of this initiative was our commitment to building relationships with the districts we served face-to-face, which is why team members flew across the country to host in-person distribution events.
“There’s something so special about getting involved with different communities and meeting new people along the way,” said Social Media Coordinator and event volunteer Ethan Welsh.
He highlights the importance of family values as a key factor in the event’s success, emphasizing how the connectivity and communication that the tablets offer exemplifies technology’s extraordinary capacity to bring people together.
“I remember talking to one mother in particular while we were getting her approved and she just kept mentioning how excited she was to bring home a tablet to her daughter,” said Welsh. “That conversation was definitely not an outlier and I ended up speaking to tons of parents that were so happy to make their child’s day.”
This initiative serves as a compelling reminder of the critical need to close the educational digital divide and make technology a catalyst for unity and empowerment, not an obstacle to learning. It stands as a powerful testament to the profound transformations that can be achieved through focused efforts, enriching the lives of students and families, regardless of their economic backgrounds.
If you are interested in learning more about our initiative and how we can make a positive impact in your school district, feel free to visit our website or reach out to SoundMind COO Lucy Schafer via email at email@example.com.