Even before the pandemic, technology had transformed our lives: remember the stress of having to find something in an encyclopedia or try to find a strange address without the Internet? But technology had not fully entered our education system as it did during the pandemic, where limited resources, both at school and at home, hampered students ’ability to access the tools they needed to be proficient in the rapidly changing technological world.
This digital divide inspired the launch of the Success Through Technology Education Foundation (STTE) in 2018. We work to ensure that tomorrow’s creators, leaders and employees are exposed to technology in the classroom, so that they are prepared for it. university and career, armed with the technological skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.
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In our first two years, STTE successfully deployed innovative programs and strategic partnerships to improve entrepreneurship and technology education throughout the region. Thousands of high school and high school students participated in our STEAMx events, which involved them in fun and competitive activities related to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math.
We organized Techstars and Startup Weekends, which immersed young people in entrepreneurship and innovation workshops. The Sun City Challenge pitted teams of high school students against a renewable energy competition using virtual reality and 3D printing.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and new technological challenges became more fundamental and urgent for students and educators: they needed the skills and resources to navigate the world of e-learning. So STTE shifted its focus and looked for spaces where we could be of service to the community in times of crisis as we reached out to students.
We immediately addressed the digital divide by acknowledging that many K-12 students in our region did not have access to a computer or tablet at home. We have helped alleviate this shortcoming by launching a laptop distribution program to collect and donate digital devices to students who need them. In addition, through our partnership with CREEED partner, STTE organized an “E series” of virtual discussions in which educational technology experts discussed the resources available to schools, parents, and students to help make e-learning more effective during the pandemic.
More recently, we are proud to once again partner with CREEED in presenting this year’s awards to teachers, who recognized eight educators from across El Paso County who are deploying technology and innovation in their classrooms to preparing students for our changing economy, especially in a year that required a sudden pivot of online teaching.
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Last year he illustrated what we can do with technology and the dependence we have on everyday functions. We enjoyed seeing students show resilience and flexibility as they adopted new tools to advance their education. Technology is the “new normal” and young minds in El Paso must now understand how to use it for an effective purpose.
So while we look forward to post-pandemic life, we continue to take advantage of the lessons we have learned throughout the pandemic year about how technology can connect us. In the coming weeks, STTE will launch a media platform, SayWhat.tv, that will engage young people, address social and emotional learning issues, and share the latest technological and business trends.
Thanks to partnerships with leading community organizations such as CREEED, El Paso Electric, and Microsoft, we will continue to help students use their talents, explore careers in technology fields, and imagine entrepreneurship. Together, we are proud to work to produce the skilled labor we need to keep El Paso competitive in the American skilled economy and help young people discover how fun STEAM can be.
Joseph Sapien is executive director of the Success Through Technology Education Foundation (STTE).