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Summer SuperHighway: Patrice Berry on Technology and College Prep

Summer SuperHighway Series: Patrice Berry, College Track East Palo Alto Site Director

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At the heart of the work we do at EducationSuperHighway are the students and educators directly impacted by digital learning opportunities in the classroom. That’s why we are launching our Summer SuperHighway series: throughout the summer, we will interview educators who inspire us, advocates who see, on the ground, how access to high-speed Internet can open up opportunities for school districts and communities, and what the K-12 educational landscape really feels like for teachers and students. In this first installment, we talked to Patrice Berry, the site director at the East Palo Alto branch of College Track, a non-profit that helps students from low-income communities access higher education.

1. Do you think of your students as digital natives? Why or why not?

Not entirely. Although my high school and college students grew up with the Internet as an established part of their everyday lives, there still remains an access gap. Some of our families don’t have Internet access at home.

2. What kinds of technology do your students use in their classrooms?

Students use laptops to access the Internet and software like Microsoft Word and Google Docs for essays and other school assignments. They also use their laptops and cell phones to view grades and assignments. Schools are using programs like Infinite Campus, SchoolLoop, PowerSchool and Canvas to empower students to maintain their grades and assignments, and to facilitate communication between teachers and families.

3. How comfortable are they using technology as a learning tool?

They seem very comfortable using the Internet to search for help with homework assignments and projects, for research, to manage their assignments and to communicate with their teachers. Although they provide more personalized experiences, many of our students do not enjoy learning exclusively from digital content; they find these education systems are more effective when paired with an actual, live instructor.

4. In what ways has technology helped support your role as an educator?

Technology helps me be creative, solutions-oriented and nimble as an educator. I can access an enormous amount of information quickly, I can find answers to problems I can’t solve on my own or new ideas to consider, and I can easily discover different ways of approaching my work through the live and archived documentation of others’ experiences.

Technology has also allowed me to communicate with hundreds of students and families efficiently.

5. In what ways could technology help, that it doesn’t currently?

I mostly regret that many of the different systems I use to manage my time, workflow, and communication aren’t integrated.

6. In your experience, what is the relationship between Internet access at home/school and college preparedness?

It might be true that college success is related to students’ experience with technology. Technology connects people to resources and information, so being resourceful and having the ability to efficiently navigate a diverse digital landscape to access what one might need is useful.
It is resourcefulness that might inspire one to access technology; it is experience with technology plus education or intellectual agility that would enable a student to navigate the wealth of information available and to make the right choices about what to use. All of these seem important to success in higher education, and all three can be gained or learned. It’s probably not an unfair assumption to think that more experience with digital learning or a history of technology access could lead to greater success, or at least stronger tools.
We’d like for you to hear more from educators like Patrice Berry, who are committed to opening doors and increasing access to equitable education opportunities across the country. Stay tuned for our next installment of Summer SuperHighway.
Disclaimer: EducationSuperHighway is a non-partisan non-profit. We do not endorse any specific vendor, political entity, or organization. The views expressed in this series are exclusively those of the person or people being interviewed.

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