On Thursday, Aug. 10, educators at the Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences surprised members of the incoming sixth-grade class with their very own Chromebook laptop computers to kick off the new school year. These middle-school students attending Sixth-Grade Academy are among the nearly 9,000 students in Denver Public Schools who will be receiving a device to use for the school year.
Students are gaining more equitable access to educational technology thanks to Denver voters. The district has invested $10 million in bond funds on an initiative called MyTech, which provides DPS students in 13 schools with a one-to-one personal computer as the 2017-18 school year begins. (Learn more about the 2016 bond and mill levy.)
“Who uses an encyclopedia to look things up?” asked Board of Education member Mike Johnson to the Hill sixth graders, as a few hands slowly raised. “Now who uses Google?” he followed up as a room full of hands shot straight in the air.
As much as technology is relied upon for everyday tasks, not everyone has access to tech at home. MyTech is working to close that digital divide. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the tech industry is largely dominated by men and lacks racial diversity. Data shows, among executives, 57% of employees were white, 36% were Asian American, 1.6% were Hispanic and less than 1% were African American. In the executives category in high tech, about 80% are men and 20% are women. By providing DPS students with the technology tools, MyTech aims to change that reality and encourage girls and minorities to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. This equitable access to technology is being extended outside the classroom.
“Denver voters gave us a wonderful opportunity to give students access to tech beyond their school day,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg at the morning’s festivities. “Students will not only be able to use these devices at school. They will also be able to take them home.”
The schools chosen for participation in the MyTech program’s pilot year were selected based on a rigorous application process, where the teachers and administrators demonstrated a willingness to reconsider their instructional practices and to seek new ways to better meet the needs of their students. Access to this technology will supplement curriculum, enhance student engagement and ensure students graduate with the digital skills necessary to succeed in college, career and life.
Lessons learned at the MyTech schools will be leveraged across the district to enhance teacher professional development, classroom instruction, and the district’s policies and procedures required for the effective use and support of computing devices for all students. The information gathered from the MyTech pilot will further help DPS expand technology integration and one-to-one computing devices to even more students districtwide.