Families in 17 states will receive nearly 15,000 devices and 7,500 Lego Education Solutions as part of a new partnership aimed at supporting 45 school districts that serve students who are in critical need and who were hit hard by the pandemic.
“We often get kids who are under educated and under served from our community, 90% on free and reduced lunch,” Rose Norman, chief operations and grant officer of Southwest Schools in Houston.
It's a district that struggles to meet the needs of their students. COVID-19 hit them hard and the abrupt switch to e-learning was problematic for many reasons.
“We found out that our high school students were turning in assignments but when we looked closely, we realized they were doing those assignments off of a cellphone,” Norman said.
One day, Norman was reading a newsletter, and saw a way for schools to apply for a new initiative that would help with connectivity, devices and educational materials. Norman says, she wrote from her heart, describing what life was like for her students. Less than 10% had a device at home. Some parents lost their jobs and needed help with rent and food, and the district didn't have enough computers for virtual instruction.
“What we’ve learned from the COVID was that for a student to have a laptop is a must, not a privilege. It’s a must. But because our kids are not privileged, we have to make that must come to fruition,” Norman said.
Southwest Schools was among more than 40 other school districts selected for a program aimed at providing technology for low-income students. Working off a survey from First Book stating that 40% of children in need in the U.S. do not have reliable internet access and another 40% are without access to devices, Intel and CDW-G, a tech solutions provider, joined forces with First Book to give students a fighting change as they head into the fall. It's call the "Creating Learning Connections Grant."
“Technology if it's properly implemented especially in the context of COVID, it can save lives in the context of education it can change lives,” says Brian Gonzalez, senior director for global partnerships and initiatives at Intel.
A big part of Gonzalez’s job is to bring technology into education.
“This has now become the challenge of our lifetime, certainly my lifetime but to really understand how technology can take that next step and improve student outcomes and it’s not about devices, it’s about connectivity and content and that has to come together in a way that we’ve not done before,” Gonzalez says.
He added you can’t just hand out computers without educational advice, support and training without it being successful. That is where Lego Education comes in.
“Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, all the builders, all the kids,” says Esben Staerk, president of Lego Education. “We all know Lego products and we understand this idea of the joy of building and the pride of creation and that’s what we’re bringing into a learning setting, that joy and pride in creation.”
Things like Spike Prime, Simple Machines Kit - there's even a "break-dancer" version.
“Who doesn’t love to dance? Not everyone’s great at it but everyone loves to do it and therefore, I think that personal relevance becomes important.” Staerk said.
Lego is focused on purposeful play, giving kids the confidence and love of learning. It's a gift that will last a lifetime.
“I’m not sure if the kids or the principals who will be the happiest to get the 350 computer,” Normal said. “I believe it will be a tossup between both of them. I know the kids will be so excited to get the Lego Educational Spike Prime kits.”
Norman says a "thank you" doesn't even cover her gratitude. Her students will be one to one this fall, meaning everyone will have a device at home and a portion of their award gives them money to purchase more hot spots.
So, this time around, no one will have to do homework on a cellphone.