The Digital Divide Gets Personal For LAUSD Instructional Technology Initiative Director

Q&A with Los Angeles Unified School District Instructional Technology Initiative Leader:

Sophia Mendoza

Sophia Mendoza is Director of the LAUSD Instructional Technology Initiative (ITI) which leads with quality instruction to focus on teachers and students and then incorporates technology.  ITI is making great strides with this insightful approach.  LAUSD is the second largest school district in the country.  CETF is partnering with LAUSD ITI on implementing School2Home in 15 middle schools to improve academic performance.

Q: Please describe your philosophy in integrating technology in the classroom?

A: It’s personal for me. For example, at the turn of the century, my daughter will be 88. I keep in mind all of the work we are collectively doing is going to impact the next three generations to come.

Leading with instruction means centering equity and access for students, so that all learners receive the instructional scaffolding needed to thrive in a digital world. While the tools leveraged for instruction may vary, the teacher's role in facilitating and designing the environment remains constant. Technology is not a replacement for teaching; therefore, instructional technology decisions should not lead with the device.

This approach ensures the process is not dependent on the logistics or technical specifications of implementing software or hardware, but intentionally focuses on the creative, intentional, and rigorous instructional experience.

Q:  For three years, LAUSD ITI has officially partnered with the California Emerging Technology Fund on the implementation of School2Home and convening of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative Learning Community in partnership with school improvement intermediary partners. How is this collaboration helping you shape your strategies for goals at ITI?

A:  The need to establish strategic and beneficial partnerships for now and the future will never be done. It comes down to ensuring alignment in our mission to best serve our educators and students.

Key learnings to embarking on this process include leading with instruction, designing and developing various professional learning experiences for school leaders, and leveraging the ISTE Standards and 10 Core Components of School2Home. We want to ensure that our professional learning sessions bridge the gap between content and application, and connect theory to practice. In addition to the ISTE Standards and School2Home Components, our team also infuses change-management strategies and adult learning theories into this much needed work to help today's students thrive in our increasingly digital world.


Tech Educator Calls For Digital Equity in California Schools

Tech Educator Calls For Digital Equity in California Schools, An Interview With:

Kenneth Shelton

Kenneth Shelton specializes in leveraging instructional technology to effectively engage middle school students and raise student achievement. As part of his active involvement within the Educational Technology community, Shelton is an Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Innovator. He regularly keynotes conferences and leads workshops that address educational technology equity and inclusion.

What message did you deliver at the School2Home Leadership Academy?

I addressed the challenges of how we effectively and sustainably close the Achievement Gap. California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson created a task force in 2012 with the overarching theme: "No child left offline." If your plan does not involve technology, the Gap will not be closed. It's 2018, it's the 21st century, and using technology is a must. Technology is an access portal that engages no matter the student's socioeconomic status and lays a critical foundation for closing the Achievement Gap. Every time a student fails or drops out that is human capital that we have completely lost.

How can educators best engage and challenge their students using technology?

We do not want to be asking our students questions that lead them to simply Google the answer. For example, my 11-year-old daughter was given an assignment to memorize the U.S. state capitals. I suggested an exercise using Google Earth, in which the students analyze where the state capitals are located. So instead of just memorization, they also begin to develop a geo-literacy. Technology can be a wonderful, transformative tool when utilized to engage students in new ways. If instructors simply digitize lessons, they fail the students by not providing contemporary engaging learning opportunities. Overcoming digital barriers at home and in school. We need to put technology tools in the hands of all students, no matter their socioeconomic status, race or gender. The brilliance of the School2Home Leadership Academy is that it helps educators think of ways to incorporate technology not only in the classroom but also at home by involving parents. When incorporating technology, we need to give our schools digital equity, so they can fully integrate technology across all schools, and make sure families have access to affordable broadband at home.

Are the technology apps you used during your School2Home Leadership Academy presentation accessible to educators?

Everything we used at School2Home Leadership Academy is free. I am a big fan of open educational resources. I used Answer Garden, which is a free polling app that allows you to post questions and then feedback pop us as a visual representation of the most popular answers. We used Padlet as a platform for learner voice and publication. We used Google Sites, which is part of the Google Suite for Education, as a Digital Portfolio of our learning. is another fun resource for students and teachers to access educational videos. I also recommend to educators that they empower students to submit instructional videos to one of the contests run on Each video has a 90 second-limit and is arranged in three principal categories, depending on the lesson focus.

When onboarding 1:1 technology tools and news apps, it is imperative that educators and administrators work together to develop culturally relevant and responsive programs that effectively support student achievement. This will help lead to "techequity", the ideal combination of equal access to and effective use of technology.

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.

Read more

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. 


Students Get Tech Ready for 2017

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.”

Read more


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.

Read more

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.

Read more


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.”

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read More


get updates