[audio logo]

Speaker: Otan. Outreach and Technical Assistance Network.

Jerry Yamashita: Well, thank you all for coming. This presentation, we're going to be talking about looking back on what happened during the pandemic at the beginning and the lessons that we had learned from that and why digital navigators were really instrumental in addressing what was going on at the time immediately after the lockdown period. And so my name is Jerry with World Education. Senior Technical Advisor formerly at Highlands Community Charter and Technical schools which is why I know so much about the OTAN community and [ INAUDIBLE ] across California. And then with me is Maria.

Maria Carrasco: Hello. Good afternoon. Maria Carrasco. I'm currently a CTE teacher at Highlands and I currently teach the Digital Navigator Pathway. So part of this is going to go into what our adult learners go through in the pathway and then kind of what the job is like as well for us at Highlands. For everybody, a digital navigator role could be different depending on if you're a school, a hospital, a community organization. So it depends. But we're going to go through what it looks like-- what it looks like for us at Highlands.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah. So we had a quick activity set up. Normally, it's more fun with more people but if you want to participate. That would be cool. Go ahead and scan this. It should bring up a text box for you to enter your response and then we'll look at the reply as well [ INAUDIBLE ]

[indistinct conversations]

Jerry Yamashita: Hey, Sacramento. OK. Don't tell me everyone's from Sacramento. Yes? Two? Oh, my gosh. Yeah. OK. So we're all from--

[interposing voices]

Possibly the worst vehicle for engagement for people all from the same town.

Audience: I'm not. I didn't get [ INAUDIBLE ] So this-- not from Sacramento.

Audience: It's OK.

Audience: [ INAUDIBLE ]

Jerry Yamashita: OK. So let's-- OK, we'll skip that. That's-- we'll try that at a different venue. Who would have predicted that? All the people in California, everyone was Sacramento except for one. Where are you from?

Audience: I teach here and in Oklahoma.

Jerry Yamashita: So this is your--

Audience: This is my classroom.

Jerry Yamashita: This is your classroom?

Audience: Yeah.

Jerry Yamashita: Well, thank you for letting us use it.

Audience: I'm happy to have you.

Jerry Yamashita: Awesome. So we're going to talk about what a digital navigator is and how a unique community digital navigator CTE program that we built might be able to help your agency. When we talk about that, and I'll get into what that really means, but it's a way that you can address digital literacy goals, instructional technology objectives, and just general technical support for all of your students and even some staff.

So when we look back at the COVID-19 pandemic, gosh, I mean, you guys all remember it. Right? Like, what happened on March 13th? Oh, my gosh, well, now we're completely shut down.

And what I think a lot of districts, a lot of schools, they've discovered that the access to technology was tough. And also, that the existing digital literacy levels were challenging, right? And so how do you do that, especially when now we can't even be in the room together? OK?

But when things like that happen, crisis often breeds innovation. And so we saw that happening all the time, right? Early on, you heard about the stories like beer makers and distilleries starting to make hand sanitizer. Right? Companies using 3D printers to make ventilator parts or even the whole machine.

So we saw an opportunity at that time to innovate as well to try to solve a problem a gap that was being created. But first-- yeah, so first, this is going to really address this article that I wrote for the COABE Journal. And the biggest piece of that was what I wanted to do was conduct a review of what was happening, not only in the United States, but around the world in this area.

And it was really at times tough because it was new. But I wanted to look at not only the COVID-19 response, but what was happening in that general time period with digital learning, distance learning, and stuff like that? So this is going to inform. And looking at that through a lens of educational technology.

We all know at that time, even pre-COVID-19, that many schools were really on their way to reaching one-to-one objectives if that was what was happening with their school, which is what most schools were doing. But at the same time, even though access increased, students were still having difficulties of their own. And that was just exacerbated by the COVID problems, right?

So look at the early impact. Let's see. I think what's really important to take away from this is that what was being reported were sort of two things. Continuity of education was really a concern. Like, how are we going to continue connecting with students during this time? And the inequitable access to digital learning, right? That's the digital divide.

Long-term, I think people were already predicting that we weren't going to come back to normal after this was done, however long that was going to take. People, I think, even though there were challenges, there was a general shift towards digital learning already happening. And after, it was more likely that this was going to be integrated into their routine, making it harder for them to come back to school. So I think we've kind of seen that a little bit, right?

I've dumped a lot of information in here. So I'm trying to kind of like-- because I know we have a whole part from Maria, so I don't want to take all that time. But I want to make sure that you guys are getting some of this, the important bits of what we found.

Yes. Let's go main-- so yeah, again, through that literature review process, two things were-- two main themes emerged. Again, the continuity of education and digital inequality. I really want to emphasize that this digital navigator concept is a direct response, is a tool to combat the problems with digital inclusion and digital equity that we're having. This is not just an intervention just for emergency remote teaching and disconnection from tech skills. Right? One of the other big things that was made evident was that while a lack of online learning design was not necessarily surprising, that shift to remote learning revealed gaps in both teachers' and students' digital literacy skills.

We can skip through goals. So this is focused on one local response, namely the Highlands response to this. Just for context-- Highlands students are 87% English language, 92% free and reduced lunch.

Sorry. I think I got these a little bit out of order. So these services-- we were doing-- let's see. We were trying to address this problem with volunteers. And they were doing things like Google Classroom, internet connectivity, email, and Zoom. 800 Chromebooks were distributed by late April and then 2,000 between March and September of 2020. Those were through the volunteers.

So let's look at this one. 87% of teachers at that time were reporting that they were having more trouble with technology troubleshooting than they did before the pandemic. This was the big number that stood out to me. OK? And that's why I found this really alarming. And we were trying to figure out what we were going to do about this.

So shifting to digital learning caused a lot of problems. Put students in an unfamiliar territory. And so we wanted to address that directly.

So my view on this was that we wanted to remove the technical barriers in first language so that they could connect with their subject matter expert, their teacher. Right? And we didn't want to put the language barrier on top of the digital barrier. And so we wanted to address that as a priority. Language is important. So based on a model that we worked on with partners and with NDIA across a working group, we created a new position called Digital Navigator to help the learners connect to technology and training. And this was directly designed to free up teachers, their time, so that they could connect better with their students.

So in this picture here, you can see the Digital Navigators working directly with students. Here, they're working with their smartphones. That's actually one of our interns. We'll talk about that a little bit later. But you can imagine that they're probably working in their first language in this picture.

So we'll talk a little bit about the DN role. And how that was really designed for student engagement, helping with the one-to-one digital devices, elevating digital literacy. And upskilling the students. You know? That's important for future job prospects, right? Trying to position them to be digital learners and also find jobs that might be requiring these digital skills. Looking at the long-term impact on this that might include entry or re-entry into the workforce, career advancement, generational change.

After we created the staff position, we worked on a CTE component so that the students could actually go through a program that they would learn how to become a Digital Navigator, and give them a chance to eventually get hired in that position or at other positions that were starting to emerge out in the community. And we call that Community Digital Navigator.

So the demand in the community is growing right now. I just got back from the Net Inclusion NDIA Conference. Everyone's talking about Digital Navigator. This field is growing. This job market is growing. I just got two emails yesterday with job postings in different cities around the country. So we're trying to meet this demand in an innovative way. And I think we're going to go to Maria.

Maria Carrasco: Yeah. Yeah.

[interposing voices]

Jerry Yamashita: OK.

Maria Carrasco: Thank you. Thank you. All right, so a little bit of background. I actually had the opportunity to work as a Digital Navigator for a little bit over a year. And then, during that time, Jerry was actually teaching and facilitating the CTE class. And so given that I had that Digital Navigator experience myself, then the opportunity opened up for myself to take over the course.

So here, we're going to take a look at what it is that we're teaching these Community Digital Navigator CTE students to help prepare them for that kind of a role. But even though in different capacities, as I mentioned before, the role will look different. It's really designed to mold and fit whatever the needs are of that organization. And in the needs of-- you know, the technological needs as well. So it'll look a little bit different at every job, but this is what we're teaching our students.

So through a combination of coursework, we actually use Google's Applied Digital Skills online learning platform. We use that. And we also integrate it in internship portion to the course. So students are gaining knowledge and skills that are going to help them reenter the workforce. And maybe this could be like a new career pathway for them as well.

So the course builds on students' existing basic digital literacy skills. So they should already have some sort of familiarity with technology. We don't expect them to be experts. We expect them to be able to perform the basics like turn on a computer, check your email, know how to find something on the internet. Because these basics are really fundamental to be able to help others do whatever they need to do-- connect with their doctor through telehealth services. Or like here at our school, connect with their teacher on Zoom, or log on to Google Classroom, or turn in an assignment, for example.

And so through authentic learning opportunities, students learn how technology fits into everyday life because that is our reality. And I believe that the pandemic made that even more true. We heavily relied on technology because that lack of human interaction we didn't have for a couple of years there. So now, it's heavily integrated into everyday life.

It's also an exploration into how digital tools can make their academic career, personal lives easier. And that's probably one of our bigger focuses of the class. How can you use technology to help you achieve things, not only in your professional life, but also your personal life?

And so the adult students pictured here entered the course with basic computer skills. We have a leveling system for English at our school. So all of these students met at least level four of English. And to also supplement this, we've also been using Northstar Digital Literacy platform to be able to assess what level of digital skills they're coming to us with.

So since this course has been around for almost three years probably, this course has been helping our students apply their digital skills with confidence. They're able to help others with technology. This gives them the opportunity to further their education and consider careers that they probably didn't get an opportunity to consider before.

So here, we wanted to share with you guys. We have a few video testimonials from a couple of students just so you can hear from them and what their experience was like through the class.

[begin video playback]

Speaker 1: I am Harjeet. 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 the teachers is magnificent and awe inspiring. I have constructor productor and breathtaking learning environment of the class.

[end playback]

Maria Carrasco: Hopefully, you should be able to press [ INAUDIBLE ]

[begin video playback]

Speaker 1: I am Harjeet. 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 the teachers is magnificent and awe inspiring. I have constructor productor and breathtaking learning.

[end playback]


Maria Carrasco: That's not it. Did you press back?

Jerry Yamashita: OK, well, there was--

Maria Carrasco: There was a few more.

Jerry Yamashita: There was a few more, but I don't know what happened to them. So I apologize for that. Oh, maybe-- did you-- that should hopefully show the playlist.

[begin video playback]

Speaker 1: I am Harjeet. I am from India. I learned--

[end playback]

Speaker 2: This is to rather scroll down and click underneath the video, the in-class testimonials. Yeah. [ INAUDIBLE ]

Jerry Yamashita: No.

Speaker 2: Maybe go to Maria, your main. And then playlist.

Maria Carrasco: All right.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Maria Carrasco: OK. I think we can--

Jerry Yamashita: Oh, there it is.

Speaker 2: On the right. On the right.

[begin video playback]

Speaker 3: Hello, my name is Svyat. I just moved to the USA. In this 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 understandable, even if you do not 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 is in any areas of your life. So I recommend that you go and study of this course.

[end playback]

[begin video playback]

Speaker 4: Hi, everyone. I am Sing. I am taking the digital skills program. This is a very good program. You can learn a lot of digital skills in the class. In fact, I got it. So everyone if you want to learn more about it, just come.

[end playback]

[begin video playback]

Lorena Ramirez: Hello, my name is Lorena Ramirez. I'm from Oaxaca, Mexico. And I am an English learner. Also, I found very important to apply for a Digital Navigator class, which is very important since in our future, besides English, technology is also important.

I learn more than just computer basic skills. And I'm happy and thankful with Highlands for offering this program. My favorite part of the class was my Drive. It's a very important tool.

So I find out that I can open my documents in any computer. And I like it because it saves my information directly to the app, like to My Drive. Thank you to my teacher, Maria Carrasco, for all her hard work. Also, for be patient.

And I think learning these skills is going to help me for my future to get a better job, to help my kids to teach them what I learned, and to find more opportunities. Thank you.

[end playback]

[begin video playback]

Salma Guzman: Hello, my name is Salma Guzman. And I am a student of Digital Navigator, which I consider important in my life. Since we are constantly evolving within technology, and the use of using digital tools but in daily life and in the professional for that very reason.

One of the tools that I liked the most was Google Sites because I think it's important to know how to use the internet to publicize what we want and the same time use it as a work tool. For this reason, I highly recommend this course, since it will give you current tools that they will help you enter the world of technology. I also thank the teacher, Maria Carrasco, who is in charge of this great teaching project. Being a person highly capable of transmitting knowledge and high human quality. Thank you very much, Maria.

[end playback]

Maria Carrasco: All right.

Speaker 2: Somebody in the waiting room.

Maria Carrasco: All right.

Audience: I'm sorry.

Speaker 2: Are you able to admit from the-- are you able--

Jerry Yamashita: I did. I just admitted somebody.

Audience: Oh, thank you.

Jerry Yamashita: Yeah.

Audience: I'm not linked, actually. I can monitor the chat, but I can't admit people.

Jerry Yamashita: Oh.

Maria Carrasco: OK.

Jerry Yamashita: You know what? Where's the-- just turn off the waiting room.

Speaker 2: Yeah. That would be great. Thank you. And maybe to turn off the sound.

[background conversations]

Speaker 2: Thank you.

Maria Carrasco: All right.

Jerry Yamashita: OK. We're back.

Maria Carrasco: So that was just a few words from our students and their experiences. We constantly try to get feedback from them, even through the internship portion, because we're constantly trying to find ways that we can improve how students are accessing the materials, or if they might need any additional support as well.

Thank you. OK. And so these are the two online learning platforms that I mentioned earlier. So this is what we use in the course. We heavily use Google's Applied Digital Skills Learning platform. And more specifically, we use the Google Workspace Training Lessons. And those lessons go over how to use these tools right here. So Google Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Gmail.

In addition to that, we also add Google Sites. That way if students are interested in having their own online presence that's like aside from social media, something that they can completely own. We also allow our students to create an e-portfolio in the class. It's totally owned by them. After they leave the class, they can continue to publish things or not. Right? But we want to give them the basics of knowing how to build your own online presence and managing it as well.

In addition to that, we also use the Northstar Digital Literacy online learning platform. All of our students, they get their own accounts for it. I always highly encourage them to, like, after they go through the lessons, take assessments in Northstar, I let them know you can always come back and review any of this kind of information. That's one of the biggest questions that we get a lot. If I do this once, can I always go back and do it again, just in case I forget, or if I would like to review? And think that that's one of the really great things about online learning platforms. As long as you have a capable device, access to internet, that's always going to be there for you whenever you need it.

And recently, Northstar has actually added a lot of lessons and assessments in Spanish as well. So if I get a student who maybe can read and write in English, but maybe their speaking skills aren't so great, personally, I still encourage them try your best to do either of these lessons. They're both offered in Spanish as well actually. Try your best to do it in English. But if it's not really-- if it's too difficult, feel free to revert back into Spanish. Personally, I'm OK with that because the skills are the same, just the terminology might be a little bit different.

Thank you. And so using those online learning platforms, a benefit as well is that students get to walk away with certificates. Both of them, they provide you with the templates for it already. So you can see on the left we have, that's an image of a Northstar Online Learning certificate. And on the right, that's what students receive when they complete a lesson and turn in a document through Google's Applied Digital Skills. And we also highly encourage our students to put this kind of certification, the information on their resumes. So that they know that these are employable skills that they're gaining through the course.

And lastly, here we have some images and information about the internship portion of the course. So after students complete the course, then we set them up for a 40-hour internship with our Digital Navigators that we have at Highlands. And during this 40-hour internship, our students gain hands-on experience with our onboarding processes.

So we are a one-to-one school in terms of devices. And so when we get new students, we're open enrollment, so we're getting new students every single day. And so the Digital Navigators play a really key role in helping us get that technology to our students. And so our interns actually get to experience that. They get to learn what the onboarding process is like. And most likely, they actually went through it themselves.

So I know that when they go through it themselves, they're not really sure entirely what's happening. So the internship part really helps them understand this is the purpose of you receiving technology. And our goal here is for you to know and understand how to use it for your learning.

And so onboarding for us it's an introduction to using school devices. So this is where they come in, and they learn what is their school email address. What's their login going to be? What are they going to be using in their classrooms? Nowadays, we use Amentum a lot. Some of our classes still use Google Classroom, Gmail, Zoom, Burlington English. We put Learning Chocolate typing sites on there.

So our interns get to not only learn the reasoning why we do this, but they also get to practice. They also help us set up the devices for our new students. And a lot of our students, since they are English language learners, they actually get to practice their translation skills as well. We get a lot of students who they're coming to us with zero English, so our interns get to help others in their own communities get acquainted with the technology that they're receiving from the school.

And they also get to practice customer service skills. In my opinion, that's probably one of the most-- probably one of the best things that they get to learn. Like, we want to make it a welcoming environment. Like, how do you greet someone when they come in the door? How do you tell them to wait patiently? You know? What if there's kids running around? What do you do? What do you say in those kinds of situations?

So they really get to learn and practice customer service skills, practice their English language skills as well, because we get students who speak maybe 20 different languages coming in every single day. Collaboration skills. This is truly a group effort to be able to make this go smoothly. And they really get a feel for working in what a Digital Navigator environment could be like.

The photo on the left, the young woman with the white jacket, she was actually our first student hire. She went through the class. She graduated with her high school diploma with us. And she applied, and we hired her. And she's still there with us today. And she was part of the first group, right? The first group that actually took the course as well.

And then, on the right, you can't see her face, but the young woman who's sitting next to the gentleman, she was also one of our students, part of that first group of the students who took the course, graduated with us, and applied. And then, the gentleman next to her, that's another intern.

So it's really like a cycle of we're trying to set up students with the tools that they'll be needing. We give them the internship opportunity so that they get a feel for what the job is going to be like. That way when they graduate, and if the job is posted on EDJOIN, they would definitely be more than welcome to apply. [ INAUDIBLE ]

Jerry Yamashita: Yep.

Maria Carrasco: Awesome. So here, we're just showing the things that they're learning here, including the internship. And it also helps support the school. Our school is constantly growing. So that means it's constantly hiring. And it's constantly in need of people who can provide that technology support, especially in different languages.

And let me see here. yeah. And I think that was it for me. For either of us.

Jerry Yamashita: Would want to say before we [ INAUDIBLE ] that the initial hires were internal hires. They were students that were hired that spoke specific languages that we were looking to support. Top three languages at Highlands were Russian, Spanish, and Farsi/Dari, so we targeted those for that first round.

As of now, I believe, there's nearly 10 languages supported, nine maybe, 10 most. And they've added now Cantonese--

Maria Carrasco: Romanian.

Jerry Yamashita: --Romanian, Ukrainian, and I believe, yeah, Pashtu. So there's-- I mean, the list keeps growing. And that list can also fluctuate in demand. Right? So right now, we're seeing a lot higher in Sacramento at least a higher influx of Ukrainian speaking folks. And some of the other ones that were higher up have kind of leveled out a little bit more. So keeping an eye on that and who's enrolling is really important.

So one thing that I would take away from this experience would be to really be intentional about, if you're interested in doing something like this, be really intentional about finding out exactly who your students are, trying to find folks from the community or former students to do that work, train them up, and connect them. Because that's going to be really important, that language piece. I think it gets often overlooked.

I've seen a lot of different models around the country. That's not always a focus. And we've seen that proved to be really, really effective in this case. I know we're a little bit short, but that's kind of it.