As our work progresses in the equity group, we are finding ourselves more focused on technology access. The group spent a good portion of the September monthly meeting discussing plans for setting up a technology lending program and what we might stand to learn from piloting loan programs.
However, even within our group of five members it is obvious that issues around equity vary widely from organization to organization. To showcase some of the issues that we are experiencing, we will do a series of blog posts from each partnering organization over the next few months. Here is an overview of challenges around equity at the Adler Planetarium to kick off this series:
At the Adler we’re lucky to have access to a wide range of technology for badging, including mobile devices, laptops, and a fairly reliable wifi network. The majority of youth that we work with are high school students and also have access to technology either at home or at their schools. Youth self-report via pre-program surveys that they often use smart phones, computers, email, and other technology common to digital badging. As a result, our issues around equity are centered more on youth knowledge, confidence, and relevance – some of which have the potential to be helped by using digital badges and others that have been exposed as we try to integrate badges into programs.
Many times we assume that access to technology means that youth are automatically comfortable using it. During pilots with various badging systems, including Youtopia, ForAllSystems, and the Chicago City of Learning, we have found that making sure to have dedicated time to train youth on how to use the platforms – from account set up through sharing badges – is essential. We are still working on the best ways to help youth be comfortable in using these systems and welcome any feedback or success stories from others.
One reason that we have been committed to the work of C-STEMBE and the integration of digital badges in programs is because we believe badging can help us reach our own goals of equitable access to life-changing experiences in science, technology, engineering, and math. As a planetarium, many teens assume that if they are not already “good” in science or math, or interested in space science, the Adler is not for them. For us this is the crux of many of our challenges with equity. With the potential for digital badges to make visible connections across a wide range of disciplines and skills, we hope to attract teens that wouldn’t normally come to the Adler. Internally, developing out those connections and improving the ability for teens to see how an experience that they have at school or in their community relates to an Adler experience is a piece we feel strongly about building out as we go forward in this collaborative group.