Bridging the Borderplex’s Education Digital Divide – LatinX EdTech Summit
By Joseph Sapien, CEO of Success Through Technology Education (STTE)
The Borderplex area has been burdened with challenges of educational digital divide and inequity – especially during a pandemic. The region is one of the highest concentrated Hispanic areas (83%) in the country, with approximately 50% of households still without broadband. Compared to large metropolitan areas, access to emerging technology is limited but growing. National educators have been looking to technology to assist homeschooling efforts, we were looking for ways to connect to technology. While others talk of refinement and efficacy, we speak of access and equity. Something had to be done – and a step forward was the first-ever LatinX EdTech Summit that took place on June 16, 2022.
As a proud El Pasoan and leading a high-tech education-focused nonprofit (Success Through Technology Education or “STTE”), I’m passionate about how to help our region compete educationally with metropolitan areas. To best accomplish a transformative generational journey, we needed to focus on adopting emerging technologies and find ways to distribute them to populations struggling to access broadband. This is no small task.
STTE Foundation, EduLab Capital Partners (ECP), and CREEED hosted the first-ever LatinX EdTech Summit and 4th Annual Teacher Awards. The Summit aimed to create and share learning pathways and successful case studies for attendees in the realm of education technology. We shared how our community is thriving with what we have. The summit focused on addressing the digital divide by connecting education leaders with emerging technology providers.
Along with recognizing exceptional educators who found success despite the challenges, the summit took time to dig deeper into the perspectives of multiple constituencies. We held a superintendents roundtable where education leaders shared their visions of what pain points could be eased by technology. We highlighted LatinX edtech entrepreneurs and companies who are leading by example and serving communities in need.
The Summit offered a unique twist on “Shark Tank” with the “Pipeline Pitch Competition,” sponsored by El Paso Electric. This allowed edtech entrepreneurs to pitch their product to the actual decision-makers in the sales equation. Superintendent’s were directly connected to technology, as opposed to a soulless “Request for Proposal” (RFP) process. This dynamic drew start-up CEOs from throughout the Southwest region to compete for implementation dollars and revenue: UpBrainery, Teaching Nomad, Konekti, Innovare, Bee Readers, and Schola. Innovare Social Innovation Partners, a data-driven decision software for school administrators, emerged as the winner and will get their technology underwritten by STTE and started in our districts.
From a regional perspective, the realm of possibility to integrate technology in the Borderplex region is perhaps more wide-open than more connected communities, even with internet connectivity rates behind nationwide averages. We can benefit from better choices of more advanced options. From a business perspective, ECP Managing Partner Liam Pisano commented: “Our investment thesis is highly focused on addressing the transitions and bridges within the learner’s continuum. What we didn’t consider was that some of these bridges are about connectivity, as opposed to efficacy. Our partnership (with STTE) shed new light on how we view effective technology and who it can and should reach.”
We were thrilled by the willingness of national and local education leaders to participate in deep-diving discussions. A forum was created for people to connect, recognize, and act. With buzz for a 2023 event, we have taken major steps to positively impact student education in the Borderplex region.
-Joseph Sapien, CEO of Success Through Technology Education (STTE)
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