Modernized Classrooms & Affordable Internet Service: Partners in closing the digital divide

Technology is in our homes, at the grocery stores, doctor’s offices, athletic events, and – most importantly – waiting for our children in college and their future careers. For that reason, it’s crucial that educational institutions teach students in a way that is relevant and trains them to use the tools that are ever-present in our daily lives.

When the National Alliance for Black School Educators (NABSE) and Promethean, a global education company, offered to donate more than $150,000 worth of classroom technology and professional development services our employees were ecstatic, and rightfully so. Those tools and that training will help our teachers work with students and begin to close the digital divide that exists between families with technology in their homes and those without.

At Napier Enhanced Option Elementary on Wednesday, the two organizations announced the donation that will help the 15 schools receiving technology and support.  Schools will receive touch-screen interactive whiteboards, hand held student response devices, and educational software. Teachers will be trained on how to best use these new tools to increase student engagement and better lead interactive lessons.

The donation will immediately turn classrooms in fifteen Nashville schools into modern-day learning centers complete with interactive whiteboards (ActivBoard), touch-screen interactive tables (ActivTable), hand held student response devices (ActivExpressions), and educational software. Schools receiving the donation include: Napier Enhanced Option Elementary, Harris-Hillman Exceptional Education School, Ross Elementary, Neely’s Bend Middle, Dodson Elementary, Old Center Elementary, Oliver Middle, Bordeaux Enhanced Option Elementary, J.E. Moss Elementary, Gower Elementary, McMurray Middle, Shwab Elementary, Caldwell Enhanced Option Elementary, Madison Middle, and the Martin Professional Development Center.

But this donation is much more than a one-time act of generosity. It is part of an annual program by NABSE and Promethean to close the achievement gap by modernizing classrooms and boosting parental engagement. Our schools were selected to receive this donation since Nashville is serving as the host city for the 40th NABSE Annual Conference (Nov. 14 – 18). Thousands of educators are spending the weekend in Music City tackling issues surrounding urban education, higher education, and exploring the role of diversity in public schools.

At the same time, but across town, Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register, Mayor Karl Dean, State Representative Brenda Gilmore, John Gauder from Comcast, and Patricia Stokes from the Urban League spent the morning at a Digital Literacy Rally encouraging families to explore Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. The program provides affordable Internet services for low-income families and is meant to aid students and parents in academics, job searches, much more.

Bring the Internet home for just $9.95 a month.

While slightly more than half of our students have access to the Internet at home (56% at last count) and 14,500 families are eligible for this discounted service, only 800 families enrolled in the program during its first year. Hoping to boost participation, Comcast is promoting the program to the community and is funding the Urban League’s Project Ready Digital Academy with a $15,000 grant. The Academy will teach skills in digital literacy, computer programming and college readiness to under-served youth.

To say the support and commitment of these businesses and community partners is worthy of a big pat on the back is an understatement. These donations, programs and partnerships are setting the stage for us to close the digital divide in Nashville and to give every family access to technology and training. They are helping us give our students and families the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century. Now we need your help in spreading the word and making sure every family knows about the opportunities and takes advantage of them.

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