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Charlotte educator: devices are just the first step in digital inclusion

For a technology educator at West Charlotte High School, distributing low-cost personal computers opens countless doors for students — but devices are just the first step in helping people succeed online.

Kevin Poirier, the school’s technology facilitator, discussed education, personal and professional development at the Mega Distribution Day on Oct. 1. Organized by the non-profit group Eliminate the Digital Divide (E2D), the event distributed 500 computers to families from five high schools.

“In the last five years that I’ve been with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, we have done a phenomenal job of getting devices out there, and getting students connected to devices in school, and then with programs like E2D, getting them connected at home,” Poirier says. “And I think the next step, although we’ve been working on this all along, is making sure that we understand that just the device doesn’t move the dial for student achievement.  If you put a laptop in front of a kid, that doesn’t change what they’re learning.

“We need to be really intentional about how we’re using the technology, how teachers are using the technology, how students are using the technology at home, and making sure that our teachers,” Poirier says. “You know, some of this is new for teachers as well. Making sure that they know how to effectively instruct and build lesson plans around the now 30 Chromebooks or 30 laptops that they have in their class. That is of the utmost importance.”

At the event, hundreds of excited students and families from Garinger, Harding, Vance, West Charlotte and West Mecklenburg – the lowest income schools in the Charlotte Mecklenburg system — flooded the uptown ImaginOn library for the opportunity to own a computer. E2D enabled the students to depart from the library with a device, provided online connection options, and gave technology education.

The students and faculty who filled ImaginOn came from from many different schools and backgrounds, but they all shared one purpose — to stay connected.

Poirier says devices provide a powerful way to capitalize on student curiosity. “It’s opening so many doors for students to work on their school work, for students to find jobs, for students to connect with their peers and their teachers online. A laptop opened the door for me as a student.”

One West Charlotte senior who found a way at the event to own at laptop at home, Kalijah Jones, says the laptop will simplify her college application process.

“Accessing websites on the phone is difficult because the panels on the site are hard to access,” Kalijah says. “Sometimes it’s hard to click on it and get to the actual website.”

With these new devices, Poirier hopes students will become not just consumers of technology, but creators. “Our English department are using awesome online applications, such as ‘WeVideo’ to create trailers for their students, really empowering students with an opportunity to create content for themselves and to get their own personal message out there.”