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Our guest, Caitlin Ameral, hopes that we can “build upon” the great digital equity work that has already been done rather than building everything “anew.” In this light, Caitlin and other national leaders are part of a committee tasked with creating a Digital Equity Toolkit that will be released during Digital Inclusion Week. This toolkit will provide suggestions and examples for how schools and communities can promote and support digital equity in their communities. The hope is that these resources will amplify the great work already being done while also empowering people to build upon that work and rise to even greater heights of support.
Tune in to this episode to learn more about Digital Inclusion Week and discover insights and strategies that you can use to amplify digital equity in your community. The following are a few highlights:
- About Our Guest: Caitlin Ameral is Senior Director of Communications and Projects for City Year, an educational nonprofit powered by AmeriCorps.
- City Year’s Mission: The mission of City Year is to “expand educational equity by supporting students furthest from opportunity” and “develop diverse leaders through national service who can work across lines of difference.”
- National Partnership for Student Success: Caitlin is part of a working group that “was created to help amplify the importance of digital equity and inclusion.” This is part of the work being done by the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS), a public/private partnership led by the US Department of Education and AmeriCorps. One of the goals of this program is to get an additional 250,000 adults across the United States who are willing to help young people recover from the pandemic and thrive.
- Digital Inclusion Week: This event is a national week of awareness intended to expand understanding about digital inequities and amplify nationwide efforts to close these gaps. It is being powered by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and will include social media campaigns, events, and other media connections to highlight the effort and encourage others to join.
- Digital Equity Toolkit: This toolkit will be released during Digital Inclusion Week on both the NPSS and NDIA websites. One of the main objectives of this toolkit will be to help amplify resources that already exist, so groups may more quickly get to work rather than needing to reinvent the wheel.
- Parts of the Toolkit: The Digital Equity Toolkit will include a concrete definition of digital equity, a deeper dive about how champions can support digital inclusion, tangible resources and examples, and a catalog of bright spots highlighting “real examples of work being done in neighborhoods that are impacting students and families in real ways.”
- Bigger Than Computer Access: Caitlin says that addressing digital inequities is “about greater social and economic inclusion.” She explains, “To ensure that all learners are able to fully participate in their learning, digital inclusion efforts should really involve things like affordable and strong internet service, access to internet-connected devices, and then access to the information, and tech support, and digital skill-building opportunities that really enable learners and community members alike to sort of achieve their goals and fully participate in their learning at school and beyond.”
- Digital Navigators: These are trusted people who are already working and serving in local communities. They include tutors, mentors, student success coaches, postsecondary transition coaches, and wraparound support coordinators. These individuals help learners “navigate” the digital world and access both the technology and skills they need to thrive in a tech-rich world.
- Local and Trusted: Digital navigators can have a great impact because they are local and trusted. Caitlin explains that because of these local connections, digital navigators can “leverage their existing understanding of community-specific needs and deliver the right kinds of support, at the right time, at the right scale and intensity, to students and schools who need them and to do so in a way that really aligns with work that they’re already doing to support young people.”
- Bright-Spot Examples: Caitlin calls out two examples of this work in action. One is the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, which has created “tech hubs” for community members to access the internet, learn skills, complete homework, and connect with a bilingual community help desk. City Year is a second powerful example. They have partnered with AT&T to help young people continue learning beyond the classroom through platforms like The Achievery, a free and safe online learning platform. By providing models and examples, NPSS hopes that communities can build “upon great work that is happening in a way that is high impact and lower lift.”
- Questions for Schools and School Leaders: Caitlin says, “Schools are an extremely important part of the work to advance digital equity and inclusion.” When approaching this work, there are several key questions that she suggests should be asked: What are our goals? What resources, assets, and partnerships already exist? How might we partner with them? How might we integrate digital navigators into the school day?
- Partnerships: “There’s so much to be said for the power of partnerships,” says Caitlin. In that context, she encourages us to think about how we “create the connective tissue and really . . . step out of our silos, and . . . come together, and rally around supporting our young people.”
- A Final Question: Caitlin ends the podcast with a final question for our listeners to ponder, “How can we continue to shine a light on really inspiring and powerful examples?”
If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:
- What is Digital Inclusion Week?
- What is the Digital Equity Toolkit?
- Are there members of your community who lack equitable access to technology and related technological skills?
- How can you help promote digital equity in your community?
- How can your community utilize digital navigators?
- What are some action steps that you can take to improve digital equity?
Extend Your Learning
- City Year (official website)
- National Partnership for Student Success (official website)
- National Digital Inclusion Alliance (official website)
- Digital Inclusion Week (National Digital Inclusion Alliance)
- Digital Inclusion Event Toolkits (National Digital Inclusion Alliance)
- AmeriCorps (official government website)