Syracuse University, AT&T, Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) and Tech4Kidz partnered this summer to create the Central New York region’s first free digital literacy and education summer program designed to address equality issues in technology education and to help local students impacted by the digital divide.
The AT&T ’Cuse Digital Experience is designed to encourage more underserved and diverse students to enter the field of technology, an industry that has long faced a pervasive diversity gap. The program provided more than 120 underrepresented students from the Syracuse City School District in fourth through eighth grades an opportunity to gain critical digital literacy and readiness skills through unique technology focused immersive experiences, while encouraging them to explore a STEM and technology educational and career paths
Over the course of the program, the students learned a vast array of digital literacy skills, including cybersecurity, positive social media uses, analyzing search engine results, computer coding basics, keyboarding skills, artificial intelligence, 3D printing disciplines, digital animation, robotics, computer-based design for civil engineering and public space projects, and skills for finding factual news online.
The students also learned how technology can be used for good and community building by creating solutions and discovering creative uses to address issues impacting youth of the region, such as digital citizenship, while also learning the dangers of cyberbullying, cyberscams and digital footprint issues that hurt children’s reputation later in life.
“We are grateful to AT&T and our collaborative partners for allowing us to introduce digital citizenship to so many local students. During our time together we were able to learn more about safety and how to protect our personal information in the digital world,” says Deborah Nosky, professor of practice in the School of Information Studies. “By expanding the students’ understanding and use of digital technologies, students were better able to understand how the skills we learned applied to careers they were already familiar with and new ones that they may wish to explore.”
“Technology innovates and transforms our world, and it creates boundless opportunities for those who know how to unlock its potential. This is why I am so excited for the 120 Syracuse City School District students who participated in the first AT&T ’Cuse Digital Experience summer program. They learned valuable skills that will surely be the foundation for their future success—and the economic prosperity of our community,” says Jennifer Tifft, director of strategic initiatives for the City of Syracuse. “I am deeply thankful to AT&T, the Museum of Science and Technology, Tech4Kidz and Syracuse University for offering such an impactful program to our kids. Partnerships like this make it possible to create more inclusive educational and economic opportunities for families of all backgrounds.”
Digital knowledge has become the new literacy and is the driver of all new global technology. With the growing demand to innovate, organizations across various industries struggle to fill skilled positions. It’s projected that there will be 3.5 million STEM and digital jobs in the U.S. by 2025, underscoring the importance of providing the youth the tools and skills necessary to compete in this innovation economy.
The urgency for more diverse technology trained employees is accentuated by the low percentage of diversity make-up of the technology industry. This alarming diversity shortage in the tech industry and the growing STEM job market emphasizes the importance of providing programing like the AT&T ’Cuse Digital Experience for youth of all backgrounds and economic situations.
“It’s been a pleasure teaching and learning from these energetic local students about technology and digital citizenry. Thank you to AT&T for making it possible,” says Laurie Ferger, teaching professor in the School of Information Studies.
The free program was made possible by financial support and programing collaboration from AT&T as part of the company’s $2 billion nationwide commitment from 2021-2023 to help bridge the digital divide and homework gap.
“It has been an honor to collaborate with the MOST, Tech4Kidz and Syracuse University to offer this innovative experience to these students, as it further enhances our commitment to providing resources for digital literacy educational programming throughoutnd builds upon our vigorous efforts to bridge the diversity gap in the technology industry,” says Kevin Hanna, director of external affairs, AT&T. “I am so impressed by these remarkable students and proud of their determination throughout the summer working hard to gain critical digital literacy skills, they all have great futures ahead of them.”