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Speaker: OTAN, Outreach and Technical Assistance Network.

Jerry Yamashita: Good morning, everyone. Yeah, my name is Jerry. I'm the Instructional Technologist at Highlands Community Charter and Technical Schools in Sacramento, California. Really happy to see all of you here.

Just a real quick background on me-- I originally started out as a high school multiple-subjects teacher here at Highlands and developed some CTE courses, taught digital literacy, some digital media, course pathway stuff, and moved into special projects dealing with digital literacy and staff training, and eventually moved into this role that I have now.

And, in this role, I was fortunate to be able to develop a Digital Navigator program at our agency. And that's what we're going to be talking about a little bit today. And there's two components, just to frame this out-- there's the Digital Navigator position itself, and what that means, and what they do, and how that came about-- so I'll go into the history of that and little bit about the framework, but not so much.

The focus of this is actually the course and a CTE pathway that we built out alongside the position for our students. And so that's where Maria is going to come in. So I'll cover the background and history, and then Maria will go into the actual course on how that works. And so, yeah, so I'll let Maria introduce herself.

Maria Carrasco: Hello. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us. As Jerry mentioned to us, we have two different topics, but they are very interrelated-- Digital Navigator and then the CTE course to supplement that role here at Highlands. And that's what I will be talking about.

I started off my journey at Highlands in 2019. I was a classless proctor, and then I was able to move into the Digital Navigator position for about a year. And that really heavily-- all of the things that we learned heavily influenced how the course was built out for our students. And that's what I'll be talking to you guys about today. Looking forward to it.

Jerry Yamashita: Great, so, yeah so let's just kind of jump right in here. And if anyone has any questions along the way, please feel free to put them in the chat. Or if you want to raise your hand, and we can get to you, I don't mind. I think we have a smaller group, and I think more interaction is better than no interaction. So feel free to kind of jump in and ask questions as we go, OK?

So you guys are seeing a broken window, yes? Yeah? OK, cool. Just want to make sure this thing is all laid out. I hardly use PowerPoint, and it's so bulky, and anyways, that's another session.

I know this is kind of played out at this point, but, really, I want to talk about the impact of COVID-19. And the impact that it had on digital learning can't be understated. We all remember Friday the 13th, right, when we made that transition. And, in fact, many agencies and school districts and other stakeholders discovered very early on that access to technology and low digital literacy posed significant challenges to their learners and, in some cases, to their teachers and other staff as well.

However, I've heard it said that crisis breeds innovation. And, in fact, we saw that all throughout the pandemic, right? We heard these stories-- beer makers and distilleries shifted their production to hand sanitizers, for instance, right? Another case in Italy-- a startup engineering company repurposed their 3D printer arsenal to create valves that were used in ventilators. And so, at Highlands, we also saw an opportunity to innovate.

And so, in this presentation, what you're going to-- I kind of spoke about it earlier, but you'll learn what a Digital Navigator is and how a Community Digital Navigator CTE program might help your agency's efforts to elevate digital literacy, reach instructional technology objectives if you have them, and provide technical support for every student through student empowerment. This is student to student at this point, which I think is really powerful and important.

So, with more and more of our schools that are approaching successful one-to-one digital device implementation goals, the focus started to shift from lack of access-- right? So we talk about the digital divide all the time, right? And, historically, we hear about the three-legged stool of the digital divide-- lack of access, lack of internet-- so lack of access to a device, lack of access to the internet, and then lack of access to training, right?

So I think what happened here is that we shifted from a lack of access to devices and, to a lesser extent, to internet because so many agencies were going one to one. We were providing internet access, or there was more widespread awareness of people needing internet access. We saw those buses going out to places, lots of people were getting free internet. There was federal initiatives. But what we saw was really unveiling, hey, there's really still a lot of lack of skills out there.

And an early poll during that time, 2020, showed that student engagement was down-- and I don't think that's really surprising-- and that troubleshooting technology problems went up, also not surprising. But the impact is huge. A staggering 87%-- now, all these references are in the slides, so I can give you guys that later. That'll be posted, so just if you want to check all this kind of stuff out.

A staggering 87% of teachers that were polled reported that they were spending more time troubleshooting problems with technology than they did before schools closed. That is an incredible number, right? And it's very likely that the technology challenges directly contributed to the decline in student engagement.

Maybe just a show of hands on here, or raise your hand, or reaction-- how many folks were teaching during this time when we shifted to remote learning? A couple of people? Yeah, I see Lars, Elizabeth. Yeah, would you say that you saw a decline in engagement? Would that be a true statement for you guys? Yeah? Yeah, I think we experienced it all across the board.

I'm impressed. I see there is a chat, but I can't read them. I'm in the present mode, so Maria, if you want to chime in any time if there's something in the chat, that'd be great.

Maria Carrasco: A lot of folks say, yes, definitely. They agree.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah? Yes, OK. [laughs]

Maria Carrasco: Mhm.

Jerry Yamashita: Thank you, guys. I like the feedback. So the shift to digital learning that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic placed many-- and, in our case, and it may be the same as your case-- at-risk nontraditional adult learners in unfamiliar territory, OK? And so what we did at Highlands, we wanted to take action to directly address those issues.

And our view is that, by removing the technology-based barriers that our students faced, especially our lower-literacy learners, right? Do we have EL teachers here or anyone involved with EL students? Yeah? We get focused, I think, a lot of times, on making sure that we are maybe being immersive or trying to deliver content in English so that they're learning English along with the content that it might be counterintuitive. But I think that that is a challenging approach in this particular circumstance.

I believe that they're better equipped if we take away that language barrier and engage them in their first language if possible so that we can remove that digital literacy barrier, right? And we're speaking first language to them, helping them remove the technical barriers, so that, in the long run, they're better equipped to engage online and receive high-quality learning opportunities every day from the subject matter expert teachers. Does that make sense? We don't need to die on the hill of teaching English alongside digital literacy. Let's take out the language part and give them the digital literacy first so they can engage online and be a digital learner.

So, around April of 2020, this was right after the pandemic started, the call went out. And so there was an email that went out from NDIA. Is anyone familiar with NDIA, National Digital Inclusion Alliance? OK, this is kind of a-- yeah, this is a coalition, so to speak, of a lot of agencies and nonprofits and so forth all around the country that lobby for digital inclusion initiatives-- really supportive of maybe the-- if you've heard of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, EBB, that was huge, now ACP, stuff like that, rural broadband initiatives.

And so this idea came up of a digital-- actually, what's interesting, they first called this idea a digital caseworker, and everyone was like, eh, doesn't sound too great. There was a working group that got put together by NDIA in early 2020. I was part of it. And we started working up this framework for our position, which we eventually called Digital Navigator.

And it was designed to help connect adult learners to technology and training. And the aim of it is to free up time and resources for educators-- remember, 87% were reporting that they were troubleshooting during their lesson time, right? So we're losing-- I mean, if you want to talk about probably something that was not tracked, adult learner learning loss, because, in our field, we don't have a ton of data. We don't have a ton of academic research, right?

But the learning loss didn't just affect K-12 students, right? If we're troubleshooting 87% of the time, we want to free up that time. And so if we can create a position that would help free up that time, then we can use that time to continue to facilitate learning.

And I don't know if anyone has seen-- I don't know if Dr. Rosen has joined us in this symposium this year, but he wrote an article about digital navigation services not too long ago. And he summarized it as saying, Digital Navigators focus on helping students get the digital skills they need to use the program or schools' online learning platform. This may be its course management system, or learning management system, or a teacher-created class website that includes assignments and links to text, audio, and video-based learning resources.

Right here, you can see two of our first Digital Navigators that were hired. On the left is Majid and on the right is Natalia. Majid speaks Farsi. Natalia speaks Russian and Romanian. Russian and Farsi are two of our top three languages spoken at Highlands. So this is what we did to-- this is part of that strategy, to remove the language barrier so that we can get digital training to our students directly.

In addition to the goals that I mentioned before, the Digital Navigators work at Highland specifically as a key part of our efforts to achieve and maintain our one-to-one digital device environment, elevate digital literacy schoolwide, reach instructional technology objectives, which I'm in charge of, so this was my team that we built, and they've done a fantastic job in helping me achieve our schoolwide goals.

And then also to provide equitable internet access and support for every student-- so not only do we provide access to devices and internet access directly through the school through hotspots, and now we have smartphones that we're distributing to students, which have a unlimited hotspot built in. But if they also need supplemental, or they want something hardwired at home, we can also help them navigate those resources to access the EBB or the ACP now, access affordable internet options maybe through Comcast or AT&T or whatever. So we can help them with that too.

Upskilling our students through this project is going to prepare them for emerging job opportunities in the public and private sectors and position them to help other adult learners at schools and other community-based organizations, elevate digital literacy, and provide access to technology and support. The long-term impact-- and I think this is really, really, really huge. The long-term impact on adult learners may include entry or re-entry into the workforce, career advancement, and my favorite, generational change.

So, shortly following the creation of the staff position, which was October. I think we got it written and approved in September. We started hiring in October, and we started October 2020. We hired six Digital Navigators, and those navigators spoke Russian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Farsi, and Spanish, and Maria was one of those original six.

Maria Carrasco: Jerry?

Jerry Yamashita: Yes.

Maria Carrasco: You have a question in the chat from Lars. "Are Digital Navigators considered tutors, or do they need to have a teaching credential?"

Jerry Yamashita: That's a great question. They are classified staff at our school. They do not require a teaching credential. What we really-- I mean, what I was focused on when I was hiring was customer service skills, language skills, and digital skills. And so if, those folks, I knew that they could provide good customer service, they had proficiency in the platforms that we were using, namely Google Workspace, if they knew how to operate a Chromebook, that kind of thing.

I mean, really, it's not super, super-- this is not super technical as you would think of as IT or something. This is about building trust and relationships with students and helping them with their digital challenges and getting them connected to their learning.

So that's a fantastic question. And, actually, I think the pathway could lead that direction, as it did for Maria, because Maria transitioned out of-- and she'll talk about this, I think, a little bit-- from being a Digital Navigator into becoming a credentialed teacher, who is now teaching the CTE program to become a Community Digital Navigator. So not only did we start-- did we create this job of the Digital Navigator. It actually opened up a new CTE pathway where we hired a teacher.

So it's kind of a ripple effect, actually, which was really fantastic. And the students really love the program. I don't want to steal Maria's thunder, but I hope that answers your question, Lars. OK, is there anything else there? OK.

Yeah, so after we've created the staff position in October, in November of that year, we started the CTE program designed for our high school and our upper-level English language development students. So we were looking at students who were level 4 or above and had basically higher than minimum digital literacy skills. This is not a course where you are gaining digital literacy. You have to have that foundation to begin with, and we're building on a digital literacy foundation. They're going to be prepared to become Community Digital Navigators.

And the demand's actually growing in our region, and actually across the country, but in the capital region of California, many CBOs are looking to create the position and hire immediately. I've been in some meetings. I'm not sure if anyone here is from the Sacramento region. You might be familiar with Valley Vision. They're kind of a regional think tank that's really focused on workforce development and things like that.

And they're sort of putting this coalition together to create this Digital Navigator framework for the region and have CBOs create and hire for those positions. So I'm optimistic that there's going to be some more pipelines opening up that we would be training these folks, and they would be able to be placed almost immediately into some of those CBO positions.

And so agencies that offer CTE-- and this is what I want to hammer home for all of you, if there's a takeaway, is that if you offer CTE at your agency, you might want to consider specialized training for this emerging market. I think it's going to be something that's going to pop up more and more out in the community, these types of positions.

And it's not just limited-- I will say, and I don't want take away anything from Maria. I will say it's not just limited to education. We have seen-- maybe you're familiar with this. We have seen these type of navigators in the health field, right? So you might get assistance with telehealth from a health navigator. I don't know if that sounds familiar to anybody, but that sort of thing-- our adult learners are the same folks that are having trouble accessing telehealth or accessing their health insurance portal or something like that. And they've started to create these types of positions for those segments too. So this is really transferable, these types of skills.

All right, so I think I went through a lot there, and [laughs] any questions for me? I'm going to hand it off to Maria next. But if there's any questions for me, feel free to put them in the chat or raise your hand. Take it away, Maria.

Maria Carrasco: All right. Thank you, Jerry. Thank you, everyone, again. And so I'm going to be talking about what the actual CTE course looks like that we offer to prepare our students for that Digital Navigator role. So through a combination of coursework based on Google's Applied Digital Skills curriculum and an internship, students get to gain knowledge and skills which can help them reenter today's competitive workforce.

The course built on students' existing basic digital literacy skills. Just as Jerry explained to us, it's not necessarily a beginner or super introductory course. It introduces them to real-world, hands-on applications of digital skills in a workplace setting. So, through authentic learning opportunities, students learn how the technology that we're using fits into everyday life. It's also an exploration into digital tools and how those can make their academic career and personal lives easier, and that is a major focus of the course.

So the photo that we're looking at here-- these students enter the course already having basic computer skills and what we consider a level 4-plus English, based on our own leveling system. So to be able to figure out where these students are at, we've been utilizing the Northstar Digital Literacy computer basic skills assessment and module to assess where their skills are at when they're coming to us, into the course for the first time.

Thank you. The course also helps our students apply those digital skills with confidence, help others with technology, help further their education, and, like Jerry was explaining to us, consider careers where they can actually put their skills, or their new skills, to work.

Jerry Yamashita: Maria, can you tell us a little bit just who's in this picture and what are we looking at?

Maria Carrasco: Yeah, so these as part of one of our first group of students that joined the class, and all of these students-- as we continue to use the Northstar Digital Literacy assessment, all of these certificates that the students are holding are one of the modules that they have successfully completed.

So we have a huge variety of students. So we have a mixture of our higher ELD students, some of our high school program students, and all of these students, they all speak-- their first language is all entirely different. And so it's really neat to see all of these students come together, learn about each other, and learn new technical skills from each other as well.

So, once our students have completed the course, they also have the opportunity to work directly with their classmates and other classes as part of an extended internship as a Community Digital Navigator intern under the supervision of a Highlands Digital Navigator. And this is 40 hours, so we allow our students to come in and work with our Digital Navigators, work with our staff, work with our students to be able to practice those skills for 40 unpaid hours.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah, I'll jump in real quick here. The picture on the right, actually, this-- when we first started the course, we were working under a CARES Act grant to get it kicked off at the time. And so, through the city of Sacramento, we got a lot of-- some funding to help get us started. And so we were able to offer some stipends to these students who completed the academic portion of the program.

And so what they're holding there-- these are two of the students that completed by the deadline. They're holding all of their Applied Digital Skills certificates. And so that-- we're really proud of them. They finished those out, and then they were able to move on into the internship portion. And, on the left there, you'll see one of our students, Sing, on the right of that picture on the left, helping a fellow student in the Digital Learning Lab with one of our new phones and as part of his internship hours.

Maria Carrasco: So to answer the next question in the chat, do we have a fee for the program? No, we don't have any fees in terms of our students enrolling in our school. As long as they're enrolled as a student with us, and they have achieved a certain level of English, they're more than welcome to join our courses. Great question, thank you.

And so we also wanted to share with you all that, here, we have a few student testimonials about the CTE course. So far, all the students that volunteered here have either completed the course or are in the internship phase. So let's take a look.

[video playback]

- I am Hajid. I am from India. I learned many new skills regarding technology. This class enhanced my confidence. First and foremost, I like this class. The behavior of their teachers is magnificent and awe-inspiring. I have constructive, productive, and breathtaking learning environment of that class.

- Hello. My name is Slavic. I just moved to the USA. In these lessons, I learned a lot about how to work with different Google programs. What I especially like is that, in the lessons of Maria, she is an excellent teacher. The material is very accessible and attainable, even if you don't know very good English. Here, you are always welcome, and everybody ready to help with any questions, not only in the digital skills, but also in any areas of your life. So I recommend that to go and study of this course.

- Hi, everyone. I'm Sing. I'm taking the Digital Skill program. This is a very good program. You can learn a lot of digital skill in the class. In fact, I got it. So, everyone, if you want to learn more about it, just come.

- Hi, guys. My name is Svitlana, and I am from Ukraine. About two months ago, my husband and I started attending Digital Navigation class at highlands and we still like it. We're still in the process of learning new things about Google Sites, about Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive, Google Slides, and maybe I forgot something.

But, anyways, this is a cool program which is self-paced. So you can do each part when you have time for it. Nobody says, OK, you have to do this like, today, tonight. So don't worry. You have enough time to finish all tasks.

And I really love our beautiful teacher, Maria. She's very nice and friendly. She helps a lot. She explains everything, and I would highly recommend this class for everyone who is interested in learning more about internet products, about the different modern technologies.

And, as I came here to improve my YouTube channel, my Facebook page, I found a lot of new information for myself. And I also think this program will be helpful for my future career in the US while I am still in the process of learning. So don't be afraid of this class. Come and join us. Continue learning, continue educating yourself, and remember, it's never too late.

[end playback]

Maria Carrasco: So those were a few testimonials from our students, but we do have a question in the chat if you can help me answer this question, Jerry. It asks, "Were there any human resources requirements to allow students to intern at our agency?"

Jerry Yamashita: That's a good question. No, not that I'm aware of, because it was not a paid position. And so it's just part of on the-- it's sort of like work hours or work experience hours that you might get as far as credit earnings. So they were earning credit for it towards high school diploma, so it was just part of the class. It was not-- I don't think there was any HR issues at all. There would be if we were trying to pay them for it, for those hours.

But, really, what we're trying to do is just get them experience during their class time and then positioning them to, hopefully, get placed into a job right afterwards, and actually one of those jobs-- possibly working with our team at Highlands. So that's one of the pathways that they might be able to take once they complete the program. So I hope that helps.

Maria Carrasco: Awesome, thank you. And so, in terms of what it is do we teach our students during the course-- so we utilize the Applied Digital Skills online learning platform. And so, most particularly, we used the Google Workspace Training set of lessons.

So this set consists of Google Drive, Gmail, Docs, Slides, Sheets, and we've added additional lessons that we found to be applicable to the role of a Digital Navigator, such as design a website to promote a project, send professional emails, manage project communication, make a promotional flyer, schedule project tasks in Google Sheets, and a few others which are all still found on the Applied Digital Skills online learning platform.

And I see a question in the chat. "There was a mention of a stipend. Was that for students working as Navigators?"

Jerry Yamashita: No, that was a special situation that was basically using-- it was kind of re-engagement funds through the CARES Act. So we were trying to re-engage students, bringing them back into school and getting them into programs that we were able to provide a stipend through that. It had nothing to do with the internship part if that's...

Maria Carrasco: Correct. Mhm, thank you. Will you go to the next slide?

Thank you. So, in addition to Applied Digital Skills, we also use the Northstar Digital Literacy program to teach our students the basics of computers, using email, and understanding the internet. The Digital Navigator role at Highlands has proven that this is essential knowledge and that these are essential skills needed to perform the role as it was designed, which is to help others facing these very same issues in our schools or communities, and to be able to do so in a language other than English, which would be their first language.

So we also take the time to explore digital tools, such as Screencastify and QR code technology and generators. I believe that these tools are great introductory tools to 21st-century digital skills. They are easy to use, and students get to use these tools for themselves outside of the classroom. I have had many examples after teaching Screencastify or how to generate your own special QR code.

I've have students come to me afterwards and say, hey, I actually-- like our student, Svitlana-- she has her own YouTube channel. She said, hey, I generated a QR code for my YouTube channel that I post on my Facebook page, that she posted on her social media, for example. So these are really good tools that students get to use, get to explore, get to experiment with outside of the classroom while practicing those 21st-century digital skills.

One of the benefits of using online learning platforms, like Applied Digital Skills and Northstar Digital Literacy, is that, upon the completion of the lessons or of the assessments, students get to leave with certificates to showcase their accomplishments and their knowledge. As you can see in these photos, the photo on the left is Northstar. The photo on the right is Applied Digital Skills. So these are certificates that our students can add to their resumes or digital portfolios for prospective employers or other educational institutions to see.

And last but not least, our students are invited to a 40-hour internship with our current Digital Navigators here at Highlands. And, during this 40-hour internship, our students gain hands-on experience with onboarding new students to their school-loaned device. Onboarding is basically an introduction that's typically given in the new student's first language. It's an introduction to using and how to use these school-loaned devices, so meaning these students are introduced to their student emails with us.

They learn how to log into their school Chromebooks, how to access other applications, such as Google Classroom, Gmail, Zoom, Lexia, and other variety of tools and apps before they begin their journey with us at Highlands. So, therefore, our students gain the knowledge and the skills to help other students in their own native languages while practicing their customer service skills, English language speaking skills, collaboration skills. And they get a feel for what a real Digital Navigator work environment would be like.

So the photo on the right is our very first student hire. Her name is Anna. She's in the white jacket. She was part of our first group of students that fully completed our Community Digital Navigator CTE course and is our first, like I mentioned, student hire as a Digital Navigator at Highlands. So we have high hopes that the CTE course-- so as the CTE course is gaining a lot of interest for in-demand digital knowledge and skills, and we have high hopes that it will continue to grow and that we'll be able to hire more of our own students as Digital Navigators.

Jerry Yamashita: I would quickly add to that, not only did Anna finish the program, or the academic part and the internship hours, but she also graduated with her high school diploma in January. And so that was a big part of being able to hire her as an official Digital Navigator at Highlands.

Maria Carrasco: Thank you. So here's a visual representation, in a nutshell, of what we talked about for today. So the Community Digital Navigator CTE course prepares our learners for the Digital Navigator role and, in turn, kind of creates an ongoing ecosystem of digital learning and support at Highlands. Our adult student population is continuously growing, and the Digital Navigator is one of the innovative ideas that we've adopted to support such an unprecedented need for digital support and learning.

So, even though this type of role is new in the education space, we have high hopes that such a role will become a permanent part of our school culture at Highlands Community Charter School. And so huge thank you to Jerry for bringing this role and course to life, as it has already changed the way we learn, we teach, and the way that we adapt here at Highlands to all of those unprecedented challenges.

And I see a question in the chat. "Are students reporting that there are positions available and that they are getting hired in real positions outside of Highlands?"

Jerry Yamashita: Oh, yeah, I can answer that-- not yet. I mean, we see this as an emerging market. Like I was kind of speaking about, our regional workforce coalition-- they are developing this. They see this as a huge opportunity. And so they're developing a regional framework for this in the hopes that some of our major employers will develop this role and begin to hire.

It's on a fast track. I think that we're in a good position because we already have the program here that we're going to be able to get ahead of it and kind of be at the head of the line and be able to just hand off our students into these new roles. I'm really excited about that.

This is something that's happening right now. I was just on a meeting with that group, I believe, in the middle of January or so. And so they are developing this not only across industry, but they're working with our local community college district, as well as Sac State, to develop these roles. And so they could be really anywhere. They want to use-- they want to be able to, for instance, introduce this role at Sac State and use undergrads in work study.

And so that might be a next step for some of our students. If they graduate, and they want to go in go to transfer to Sac State, this would be perfect for them. I mean, they would be a shoo-in for that type of position, right? Los Rios, which is one of the bigger community college districts in the state, they also are part of this coalition. They want to introduce something like this across the Los Rios system. As well as CBOs-- like United Way is one of the big partners for the capital region and others, and some of our local regional CBOs.

And so, yeah, we're really excited. So, no, we haven't seen placements yet, but the job framework is almost ready, and I think that that next step is going to happen pretty soon. So that's a fantastic question.

Maria Carrasco: We have another question in the chat. "Do you have IELCE CTE courses?"

Jerry Yamashita: Could we expand that? I'm not familiar with that one.

Maria Carrasco: Yeah, I'm not familiar either. Would you mind sharing with us, Laticia, what that is referring to?

Susan: Jerry, IELCE is where they're WIOA-funded agencies, and they complete additional assessments as part of their ESL program. And the IELCE-- there's contextualized learning, where you have a ESL teacher perhaps in the same classroom as a CTE to assist there. So I assume that's what Laticia is talking about, integrated English, yes.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah, no, we don't have that. I know that we had talked about something like that a few years back, but no. We don't have that specifically, at least not in that language, or with those initials. But that's something definitely I'd love to look into. Sounds very interesting.

So that's the-- yeah, so that's the conclusion. I know we have a little bit of time. I wanted to leave a little bit of time for questions or any more questions, or any comments, or feedback for us. I mean, this is-- again, not only is the position new, but this course is new. Everything's evolving. We've seen just such a huge change from just in the short time we've been operating in this department.

It's gone from Chromebooks and hotspots to, now, we're distributing Samsung Galaxy smartphones. And so that changed the whole dynamic as well. And all of the training that has to happen with that-- technology integration with the classrooms and the teachers. There's a lot going on, and there's a lot of potential for this to go in many different directions, I think.

And so one thing that I would emphasize is that Digital Navigators do not necessarily look this way at every agency. So just because we have it-- our look this way, it might not look the same if you were to do it at your school, and that's OK. It needs to fit your-- we want to position the student experience first. At least, that's my perspective. And so we need to think about who we're serving and then backwards map that, right? And so, when we talk about the language piece, that's huge.

In other places, it's not a huge deal. I've talked to some of these other agencies that were early on with introducing a Digital Navigator program. And they're like, oh, yeah, we have a few Spanish speakers. And I'm like, we have 2,000 Farsi speakers, you know? [laughs]

So it's a different dynamic depending on your location and the size of your agency, the scope of your agency. A lot of these programs are being run by cities, city libraries, or a digital inclusion initiative through the city, county, or sometimes the state, across the country. So it really can be different and customized, which is great. It's flexible.

Maria Carrasco: Are there any other questions maybe? Feel free to unmute yourself.

Laticia: Yes. First, I want to thank you for presenting. This sounds a wonderful program, and I'm stealing some of your ideas. I did ask whether you had a measurement of digital literacy. You might have answered it, and I'm sorry. I was distracted somewhere else. And also, tell me a little bit more about your Northstar Digital Literacy program. What is that? Is that the measurement you use?

Maria Carrasco: Yes. So since we had already previously-- our organization already had access to Northstar Digital Literacy. So we thought, why not use that as a basis to assess our students? And it's basically an assessment, a very interactive assessment, in the computer between the students.

And it also offers-- after the student takes an initial assessment, actually offers lessons to help support the student in whatever the program is assessing. And then the students get to take the assessment again afterwards. And so it's also a really great way to track their improvement. You have access to all of that kind of data through Northstar as well.

Laticia: That's sounds wonderful. One more last question-- is this WIOA II-funded? Would you... [inaudible]

Jerry Yamashita: I'll jump in on this, so-- [laughs] Are you asking if this particular CTE pathway is WIOA-funded?

Laticia: Correct.

Jerry Yamashita: I believe so. However, we do-- it's not necessarily-- I couldn't answer that exactly, but we are a WIOA-funded agency for sure, but I'm not sure what the allotment is for this particular program. Like I said, we had gotten some grant funding before that's long gone. That was a long time ago. So I'm not sure how it's allocated now, but it would definitely qualify if that was something, I think, that you wanted to do if you wanted to try this out.

Laticia: Yes. I'm sorry, and is that how you purchase your laptops to loan to students?

Jerry Yamashita: That, I don't know the specifics on about all of the funding.

Laticia: Thank you.

Jerry Yamashita: Well, I can get back. If you wanted to email me and get some more information-- and for anybody, really, if you want some more information on this, because I know this was kind of a-- what do they say-- drinking from the fire hose, or whatever. Please feel free to reach out to me. Here's my email. And also, I'm pretty active on Twitter as well if you want to get to me on social media.

Laticia, I would want to go back real quick to your question about Northstar. And I know this is not about Northstar, but we have been using Northstar for a long time, and we are what they call a sponsor site.

And so Northstar is a digital literacy assessment that used to be just an assessment, kind of a standardized sort of assessment that different people could use individually or agencies could use. It's since grown a lot into a curriculum that goes along with the assessments. People can use it on their own, but sponsor sites can also proctor the exams or the assessments and issue certificates that are signed by the agency and the proctor, showing that they have demonstrated mastery of these skills.

Now, we are our own sponsor site, but I believe-- and, Susan, jump in on this too if you know-- agencies that are affiliated with OTAN can get access to the account and to the OTAN-- through OTAN to also be able to offer the curriculum and proctoring services, correct?

Susan: I'm not sure about that. You're talking about Northstar, right?

Jerry Yamashita: Yes. I know it used to be. You could-- I know that OTAN is a sponsor site, and I believe they were being able to give access to other agencies.

Susan: It is not listed on their website as a curriculum author anymore.

Jerry Yamashita: Oh, OK.

Susan: So I can't speak to that, and there may be some way. I would contact OTAN and at least ask. It can't hurt.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah, for sure. Otherwise, if you wanted, if that's no longer an option, it's very affordable, I believe, for any agency that wants to become a sponsor site. Most will qualify for-- I believe, their annual fee for access to online curriculum and being able to proctor exams is, like, $500 for the year, and you can do unlimited certifications.

So I hope that helps a little bit, Laticia. And that is what we use as our baseline skills assessment so that we know where we need to address gaps in their knowledge.

Laticia: Thank you. I'm sorry. I'm going to add one more question. So is there-- I hear there's a $500-- the annual fee. Is there a per-student use, like Rosetta Stone, for example?

Jerry Yamashita: No, no.

Laticia: OK, thank you.

Maria Carrasco: Mhm. And we also let any of our students-- they don't have to be in the program to use Northstar. Any of our students can use it. It's just a matter of setting up their account, and they can get started.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, so we've used it over the years for many different applications. Their curriculum is really nice. At the beginning, basic computer skills-- you can actually go in and print out some of the-- they've got worksheets, where they're just matching vocabulary with images. And it really starts at the baseline, like really, what does a power button look like? What does a mouse look like? Stuff like that. So you-- I mean, if you want to talk about scaffolding, it's huge. Yeah. Lars, yes, go ahead, please.

Lars Guntvedt: Yeah, just out of curiosity on the way that the Digital Navigator is being used at your school, you say you have two Digital Navigators. And what kind of a role do they have during class? Or I'm assuming they're kind of functioning as a tutor, like a one-to-one tutor kind of a thing to build digital skills for students. How does that really mechanically work?

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah, so that's a great question. So let me give a little bit more context. On our agency, we are-- we have about-- I think right now, let's just safely say about 5,000 students enrolled. And we have two main programs-- we have a seat-based program, and we have an independent study program, and those are separate schools. Our department serves both programs, basically kind of a district level, if you will.

We have eight Digital Navigators at this point, and so that's-- you look at the numbers right there. It's just-- I mean, the ratio is really rough, right? So we're looking to expand even more. We started with six. We're at eight now. We've added some languages. I'd like to add some more. I'd love to add Mandarin. I'd love to add Arabic. I'd love to add Vietnamese, just so that we can be able to serve all of our students or more of our students equitably.

We mainly operate out of what we call the Digital Learning Lab at our main campus. And what we do here is we do technology distribution, so we provide technology to students, with a hands-on onboarding so that they know how to use the devices. They are connected to their internet access. They know their email. They know their logins. They are connected with Clever, so they can get onto all of their learning platforms, things like that.

It's really a concierge service. Most of that service happens here in the lab. We have now opened up student support centers at a lot of our sites. We have almost around 40 sites around the region and some in other parts of the state. We are sending Digital Navigators out for four-hour shifts so that they can help with just basic technology challenges-- I mean, everything from resetting passwords to lockouts to how to use any platform that they might be using-- Google Classroom, Lexia, Learning Chart, whatever it is. They're just there to help them.

So it is, in a way, tutoring, but it's really kind of technical support customer service. And, again, that stuff really changes. During the pandemic, when we were in remote learning. The Digital Navigators were also providing some professional development opportunities when we weren't in person.

So we were doing webinars every week on topics like how to use some of the advanced features in Zoom, introducing platforms like Wakelet, and how to design for your Google Classroom and other things using Canvas or Canva, how to use-- how to design your Google Classroom, how to create a Liquid Syllabus, stuff like that. We have been doing that kind of work, and it shifts all the time. We're pivoting all the time and discovering and redefining and redefining what the role actually does all the time. So I hope that answers your question.

Lars Guntvedt: Yeah.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah. I mean--

Lars Guntvedt: Yeah, that's helpful.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah. I would say that we're going to be perpetually understaffed, I think. There's no way for us to get to a point where we would be able to, I think, have enough Digital Navigators to serve all of our sites all the time full time, stuff like that. I mean, we really have to do a scheduling balance and all of that. But, yeah, it's a great question, and we're still figuring it out. This is always a work in progress.

Lars Guntvedt: Yeah, I was just kind of asking the question-- we have a couple of teachers right now that are doing that kind of a function, where they are doing half-day, three-hour teaching session, say, in the morning. And then, in the evening, they're doing a three-hour session of being a tech assistant for teachers and students, and it's similar to what the Digital Navigator is doing.

So I'm just kind of curious how that-- obviously, you've got a huge, very large organization. You got 5,000 students. That's huge. We just had a couple of teachers that we put into that kind of a role. I was one of those for a while. I was just kind of curious how that balanced. Amazing.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah, well, so I think the solution for us was that I kind of went top-- sort of like top down, right? So a lot of agencies wanted to directly assist the students when everything kind of shifted to remote learning-- you know, oh, we have a huge gap in digital literacy. Let's address the students directly. Let's get them devices, all that. That's fantastic, but it's unsustainable in the long run, I think, if you only focus on the students, and you don't focus on the staff and upskilling the staff to be able to be proficient in all of these areas.

So one of the things that we wanted to focus on was trying to provide a lot of training and hands-on with the staff so that could trickle down. Eight Digital Navigators for 5,000 students is one thing, which is really, really, again, unsustainable. But if we could get our teachers, if we have over 100 teachers on board and at a baseline, now it's much more manageable for some of those tech issues, and we can still provide that next level of support.

And so what we wanted to do was take away a lot of the, I would say, tedious, smaller stuff that was clogging up the teacher's pipeline and take that out so that they can continue teaching. And so what I would say is, for yours, maybe for your agency, you might want to identify some students who are tech savvy and could help peer to peer, and they might be able to be employed by your agency for three hours a day or four hours a day.

Lars Guntvedt: Higher level, a higher-level ESL student who can do that, yeah. And, like you say, get the tech burden away from the teacher.

Jerry Yamashita: Exactly.

Lars Guntvedt: Yeah.

Jerry Yamashita: And let the teacher teach, you know? And get them also-- at the same time you're upskilling the teachers, hopefully, that they won't be bogged down by some of these tech issues that might jump up, because, oh, yeah, I learned about that. Let me help you with that. Boom, done, instead of, oh, let me get back to you, or let me get a para. I need a help, or I need to go call IT, or whatever. But they might be able to be problem solvers at the same time. So I think it's a balance, but having the Digital Navigators as a resource has been a game changer, definitely.

Maria Carrasco: [inaudible]

Jerry Yamashita: I think if you asked our staff now, they couldn't imagine a time when the Digital Navigators didn't exist.

Maria Carrasco: We also have another question in the chat. "I am interested to know how much you pay your Digital Navigators."

Jerry Yamashita: Ah, fantastic question. Our Digital Navigators-- that's a full-time position, full benefits, fully paid. It starts at $22.93 an hour, and it goes up a, I think, 7-point scale up to about almost $31, so about $23 to $31, between there. And I'm actually hiring for one right now, so it's on EDJOIN if you guys--


Shameless plug-- if you know anybody in the Sacramento region who speaks Farsi, Dari, or Pashto, that's what I'm looking for. I have an opening, and it's open on EDJOIN. And I don't know if I can get the-- maybe Hanna can put the job posting in the-- thank you. Yeah, thanks for asking that question. I think it's really important to disclose what we are paying and what the terms of the job are. It's really good.