The Value of School2Home: An Interview with Micah Studer

On Micah Studer’s LinkedIn page, there is a quote from Winston Churchill that epitomizes his approach to challenges in education:  "Success is not final.  Failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts." 

Studer has worked as a California public school teacher since he graduated from Sacramento State University in 2006.  He has taught in the Vacaville, Fairfield-Suisun, Mare Island Technology Academy and Winters Unified School District—and he has pursued higher education degrees that have fed his joint interests in education and technology.  He is currently the Coordinator of Educational and Informational Technology of the Winters Unified School District, and is pursuing an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from University of California, Davis, with a focus Educational Technology.  Specifically, he is researching CETF’s School2Home program with the goal of examining methods for valuing educational technology tools in the classroom.

CETF interviewed Studer to learn more about his interests in education technology, why he supports the School2Home program and what he says to administrators when they question 1-to-1 computer device programs.

What attracted you about the approach of the School2Home program?

What attracted me is the idea that technology is a tool.  I think that’s a powerful concept because it really underscores the transformation that’s going on in education, which is:  technology is here; it’s here to stay; and it’s powerful for learning.

What makes technology powerful in education?

What if, 15 years ago, I said:  We can provide educational differentiation for every kid?  You would not have found a single educator who would not think that was a good idea.  But you also would have found a lot of educators who would say it couldn’t be done.  Then, technology came along and said:  Not only can we tell you where your kids are at academically, we can help through that process of skill differentiation—and by the way, here’s the data you need, right on demand, to make your decisions.  Technology is really just equipping practitioners to do their good work.  People are concerned that technology will replace educators, but all the literature confirms that the most powerful difference maker in a kids’ life is a teacher.  The fact is good teaching is good teaching with or without good technology.  But good teaching with technology is more powerful than good teaching without it. My analogy for that is:  a computer can no more replace an educator than a hammer can replace a carpenter.

How is the roll out of School2Home proceeding?

In just three years, we’ve gone from implementing School2Home for 1 to 7 grades.  We now have full implementation across middle and high school grade levels, involving 800 kids.  This has led us to increase its broadband and wireless access across the district to support a movement toward digital curriculum and resources.  When we brought the high school onboard with School2Home and Chromebooks this year, we had a solid model for process and implementation.  Now all the pieces are in place for individualized learning.  There has been a shift in teacher attitudes about technology, and teachers want more real-time data.  This is evidenced by teachers and staff moving along the SAMR model of technology proficiency.  Additionally, this summer the district moved to Google Apps for Education, and provided Chromebooks and trainings for that collaborative learning environment.  So the district is doing some very huge pivots to align itself to the goals of School2Home and we are seeing the positive effects already. 

What have the challenges been for School2Home implementation?

There are a lot of things we’ve had to learn.  There are things we wish we’d known in that first year, such as how best to protect Chromebook screens.  One of the biggest concerns when you roll out a program like this is sustainability.  A school district cannot afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Chromebooks and Chromebook repairs that can happen in one year.  Thinking through and building structures for sustainability has been crucial to our success.  Then, there’s the issue of responding to people who say:  Why do I need this?  Why should I be trained?  I don’t want my kid to have technology.  Those are questions we had to learn how to respond effectively to.

What would you say to administrators who are considering School2Home but are wavering?

 I would ask:  What’s the objection?  Educational journals are continually covering technology’s impact on education.  That’s where we’re heading.  And if that’s where we’re going as a society, then what’s the objection?  If the objection is that education technology presents complications you have to figure out—well yes, that’s true.  There is just no reason not to have this technology in the hands of kids, other than it’s too hard and you don’t want to do it.  If we believe it is the mandate of the school to educate all children regardless of who, what and where they are from, then we as educators and administrators need to provide the necessary resources for our students to succeed at high levels.  Yes, it is hard.  Yes, it is difficult. But the outcomes are amazing.

What is the focus of your doctoral work at UC Davis?

My dissertation looks at the School2Home model and how to calculate valuation for success.  One of the biggest fears we hear about is cost.  How do you put dollars and cents to a tool?  If I said, I’m going to put a whiteboard in every teacher’s classroom, then how would you measure the educational effectiveness?  You can’t really.  You can’t say:  we put in whiteboards and test scores went up.  That’s such a tenuous correlation.  So let’s say technology is the greatest thing, but it costs more than what the district can afford.  Is it worth it?  How does the district make these cost factor decisions?  What is the metric for cost-benefit analysis for educational programs?  Since we know that Chromebooks and educational technology are here to stay, then we need to create these models to guide our decision making around selecting resources amongst the plethora of available options. 

 


As Connectivity Improves, The Digital Divide Persists in Teacher Tech Preparation

EdTech Focus on K-12

Megan Bogardus Cortez | July 18, 2017

While it may seem like more and more schools are embracing technology in the classroom, Education Week’s 20th annual Technology Counts survey has found that schools still aren’t quite reaching the full potential of technology in the classroom, largely because of digital divide issues, particularly around teacher training.

“Technology is everywhere today but a digital divide among schools has emerged because quality and equity issues are huge and they need to be confronted,” says Kevin Bushweller, executive project editor of Technology Counts, in a press release.

Other disparities found by the survey include access to and adoption of both tools and the infrastructure — high-speed internet connections — needed.

The percentage of fourth-grade teachers who have received training in how to integrate computers into instruction has remained stagnant since 2009, with lower income schools consistently less likely than their counterparts to have this kind of professional development, Education Week reports.

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Students Get Tech Ready for 2017

EGPNew.com

EGPNews Staff | January 5, 2017

Communicating with teachers just got easier for parents and families of 140 Stevenson Middle School sixth and seventh graders, thanks to an innovative program focused on helping low-performing middle schools with the integration of effective technology into the curriculum, the school announced this week.

School2Home donated new Chromebook devises to the Stevenson students, enabling them and their parents to use technology to communicate with teachers, review student grades and access online resources and services, according to the announcement.

The School2Home program works with leaders at partner schools to develop a technology integration plan and supports teachers with professional development and parent training so they can successfully use technology in the classroom and to reach parents.

Stevenson Middle School Principal Leo Gonzalez said the Boyle Heights school is seeing great results from the ongoing partnership. “Stevenson students who participated in the program last year outperformed their peers on the SBAC assessment in math and language arts,” he noted. “We are excited about extending the program to our new Leadership and Technology Magnet that is opening next fall and is currently accepting applications.”

School2Home is sponsored and managed by the California Emerging Technology Fund, a nonprofit foundation focused on closing Digital Divide across California. The comprehensive approach has helped participating students make significant academic gains in reading and math.

“It’s great to see the families at such a wonderful school like Stevenson Middle receive these Chromebook devices,” said School Board member Monica Garcia, who attended the Dec. 17 event where the donation was made. “I’m glad Los Angeles Unified, Stevenson and the School2Home program were able to collaborate to create such an amazing resource for our students to succeed now and for years to come.”

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Only 43 Percent of California’s Rural Residents Have Broadband Internet Access

Pacific Standard

Rick Paulas | December 23, 2016

When you think of California, you think of its mystic coastline and majestic natural parks. You think of San Francisco’s foggy hills and the glimmering sprawl of Los Angeles. Maybe you think of the missions, or the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or the hippies, or the redwoods, or the empty cul-de-sacs of McMansions in Orange County.

What you don’t tend to think about is the huge oval between the Sierra Nevadas and the Coastal Ranges—the 200,000-square-mile swath that encompasses Redding, Stockton, Sacramento, Bakersfield, and the farmland in between. This is California’s Central Valley, one of the most important agricultural regions in the world, where more than 250 crops are grown and nearly a quarter of the country’s food supply is produced.

And yet, there’s barely any Internet access.

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How to Close the Digital Divide: And Why It Is a Matter of Public Policy!

California State Association of Counties

Lloyd Levine | September 15, 2016

This is the second of a two-part series on the digital divide. Part one can be found here.

Why is the Digital Divide a matter of public policy? The answer is simple: Since the turn of the new millennium, high-speed Internet access has become crucial to business, education, health and civic life.

Digital access and inclusion are 21st-century social justice and equity issues. Like the electricity grid, railroads, and the Federal Highway System, broadband infrastructure is a necessary public and private good. Because so much of modern life is dependent on being connected, the California has a compelling state interest to ensure that broadband access is available and affordable to everyone.

Recognizing this, the California Legislature has enshrined in statute a goal of 98% broadband access by 2017. Yet California is falling short of that goal, especially in rural areas, where the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service.

While the private sector has connected 70% of the state, that number has leveled off. To bridge the rest of the divide, the public and private sectors must work together.

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How Bad Is the Digital Divide in California?

California State Association of Counties

Lloyd Levine | September 7, 2016

In California in 2016, the state that practically invented the Internet, 30% of Californians (nearly 12 million people) do not have meaningful broadband at home, according to an August 2016 survey by The Field Research Corporation.

This article, part one of a two-part series, will look at the historical data on the Digital Divide and the new data from the recent Field Poll. This data will provide the context necessary to understand the problem and formulate appropriate public policy solutions.

The graph to the left provides some historical context for California’s current Digital Divide. The overall broadband (i.e. high-speed internet) adoption rate has increased significantly since 2008, climbing from 55% in 2008 to 84% as of July 2016. However, that 84% is really illusory and doesn’t paint a full picture. California’s broadband adoption rate is at 84%, only if we include the 14% of people whose only access is on a smartphone.

The California Emerging Technology Fund, which commissioned the survey, is technology neutral but recognizes differences in technological functionality. Smartphones do not have the necessary functionality to be an appropriate substitute for laptop or desktop computers. Because smartphones have small screens, small keyboards, and limited functionality on websites and applications, individuals who rely on them are considered “under-connected”—in other words, they are not able to fully compete in the digital economy.

Because of the limitations inherent in smartphones, and because 14% of Californians are “smartphone only” users, it is more accurate and appropriate for policy makers to use the “meaningful” broadband adoption rate of 70%.

To really understand why and how a 30% Digital Divide exists in California, it is necessary to understand the terms “access” and “adoption.”

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Why Smartphones Alone Won’t Close the Digital Divide

Sacramento Bee

Sunne Wright McPeak | August 21, 2016

There is much to celebrate in the Field Poll’s annual survey on the “digital divide” in California. The percentage of Californians with high-speed internet at home has risen to 84 percent in 2016 from 55 percent in 2008.

But the divide between those who have broadband at home and those who do not is closing largely because of smartphones. The 2016 survey found that among the 84 percent with home broadband, 14 percent are connecting only through their smartphones. This percentage is a near doubling of smartphone-only users since last year.

No doubt, smartphones are marvelous devices that provide access to information and online applications. But they are limited functionally for doing school homework, applying for jobs or college or taking online courses.

The problem is that those who rely only on smartphones are the very people most in need of the upward economic mobility enhanced by internet-connected computing devices.

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The Growth in 'Underconnected' Californians Should Alarm Us

San Jose Mercury News

By Michelle Quinn | August 1, 2016

At first glance, the latest data on California's digital divide looks like amazingly good news.

A whopping 84 percent of Californians now have access to broadband internet at home, up 9 percentage points since 2014, according to a new Field Poll.

At that rate, the digital divide -- the gulf between the information haves and have nots -- could be wiped out in less than three years.

But most of those gains have come from increased smartphone use. In the past year alone, there's been a near doubling -- from 8 percent to 14 percent -- of state residents now online because of smartphones. Meanwhile, the percentage of Californians connecting to the internet via a laptop or a desktop has remained flat for several years.

"That is the biggest problem," said Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll, which conducted the survey for the California Emerging Technology Fund, a nonprofit focused on broadband deployment and adoption.

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Bridging the Digital Divide for Families Can Improve Student Outcomes

EdSource

By Delaine Eastin |May 23, 2016

California, once revered as a top school system, now ranks among the bottom in the nation. Despite being one of the most expensive states to live in, California is near the bottom in per-pupil spending. Inadequate funding has led to teacher training and retention problems, overly large classes and the fewest number of counselors, nurses and librarians per student of any state. Most disturbing, we are experiencing low achievement for too many students.

This comes at a time of historically high rates of poverty and income inequality.  Amidst all this bad news, however, there is an overlooked bright spot: parent engagement through educational technology. Not only are online teaching and learning aids transforming the learning potential for students, they are providing a revolutionary way for parents of all backgrounds to engage in their children’s education.

We’ve always known that parent engagement matters. And over the past decade, a ream of academic studies has confirmed that parent engagement – across income, ethnicity, race and geography – is a key to student learning and academic success.  Yet parent engagement tends to be higher at higher income schools – and that’s because wealthier parents generally have three things poorer parents don’t have: time, money and access.

Educators can’t solve parents’ time and money problems. But there is plenty we can do about access. One promising approach is an innovative program called School2Home that’s been adopted in 11 low-performing middle schools in five California districts. The program, where I’ve served as a coach for educators, is showing that Internet access and digital literacy training can provide significant benefits for students, teachers and parents.

School2Home is based on the simple recognition that around 30 to 40 percent of low-income California households do not have high-speed Internet and that this “digital divide” is widening the academic achievement divide. For that reason, School2Home has set out to: get students connected to the Internet at home through affordable broadband programs and low-cost computers; provide parents the digital literacy skills they need to engage with teachers, schools and their children’s learning; and train teachers to use the increasing abundance of hardware and software to the benefit of their students’ education.

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FCC Commissioners Visit School2Home Partner Schools in Los Angeles

May 2, 2014

 

At the invitation of School2Home, two commissioners representing the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai and Mignon Clyburn, separately visited two of Los Angeles-area partner schools: San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFIAM) and Muir Middle School.  Both congratulated the schools for their innovative use of technology to make a positive difference in their students’ lives, and used their visits to  advocate for expanded broadband in schools during an important gathering of FCC policy makers a few days later in Washington, D.C.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai sat in on Mr. Peña’s 8th grade class at SFIAM, which was studying world religions.  Mr. Peña introduced the concept of tessellation.   Commissioner Pai admitted, “I had never heard of the word, but that was soon to change.”   Mr. Peña asked the students to put the term into Google Images on their iPads.  He then asked them to describe what they saw and why they thought Islamic art and architecture used tessellation so extensively.  “In their own words—and I confess I did the exercise in my own mind!—the students described an infinitely recurring series of geometric shapes. They then surmised, correctly according to Mr. Peña, that it was used to exemplify the infinite power of God,” Commissioner Pai recounted at the D.C. hearing.  “I’m pretty confident that those kids did not just hear, but learned—that they will retain more knowledge thanks to a technology-based approach. After leaving Mr. Peña’s classroom, he met with SFIAM parents, along with Principal, Institute officials from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the California Emerging Technology Fund and School2Home partner, the Youth Policy Institute.  “The parents told me that the school’s embrace of technology has had a huge and positive impact on their children. The others suggested that there was even more they could do with a modernized E-Rate program,“ he said.

 

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn visited Muir Middle School, where she toured three classrooms to observe how the middle school students were using tablet computers, providing real-world examples of the importance of broadband in learning.  Principal Kurt Lowry and Muir teachers described how the School2Home program improves student research skills and learning self-sufficiency, in addition to promoting student collaboration and student-teacher communication.  The Commissioner also visited with “Mouse Squad” students who meet after-school to learn how to troubleshoot basic IT problems to help their classmates and teachers when they encounter problems. 

The Commissioner participated in discussions with leaders from Los Angeles Unified School District, School2Home partner LA‘s Promise, and the California Emerging Technology Fund.  The leaders spoke about the critical need for affordable home broadband for low-income students so students can do their homework, collaborate with other students and ask questions of their teachers after school hours.  CETF said there are very few discount broadband offers available in low- income communities in Los Angeles, which greatly disadvantages students seeking to improve their academic performance.

During the FCC workshop examining broadband a few days later, the Commissioner described the enthusiasm of Muir teachers and students over the arrival of tablet computers for each student, and noted to the gathered policymakers that urban schools have as much need for access to affordable broadband as rural schools. 

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