CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Jan. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Because of COVID-19 millions of students are remote, creating gaps that effect learning outcomes. These gaps often include a lack of Internet access at home and limited opportunities for STEM and Computer Science education. A new Chromebook app has been released that helps bridge these gaps for many students.
Schools have attempted to address remote learning issues by purchasing low-cost computers for students to take home. The most common solution is Chromebooks, which can cost as little as $300. Technology research firm IDC estimates that over 9 million Chromebooks shipped in 3rd quarter of 2020, an increase of 90% over the year before. However, Chromebooks still rely on high-speed Internet connections for most tasks, creating an issue for many families.
The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 21 million Americans lack broadband access, with independent research indicating the actual number is twice as high. In a separate survey, only 30 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools reported students had Internet access at home. While schools are working to close this gap, Internet access will continue to be an issue for education.
Additionally, schools are struggling to provide well-rounded and effective educational experiences via distance learning. Many states addressed this issue by spending a portion of stimulus funds on basic online educational materials for reading and math. This has led to a lack of STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) activities and a more limited exposure to STEM and high-demand careers.
Tennessee-based Thinking Media has created an innovative solution to these issues by releasing the Learning Blade® Backpack app. Learning Blade is a STEM and computer science career awareness platform that provides rich experiences for students. The Learning Blade Backpack app for Chomebooks allows students without Internet access at home to use the library of interactive STEM lessons that expose students to high-demand careers while practicing basic academic skills. Students download lessons while connected to the Internet at school and then work on the interactive lessons even where Internet is not available. Whenever the student connects to the Internet, the results are automatically uploaded for the teacher to review.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, whose efforts in computer science education is nationally recognized stated, “Until every student in our state has access to high-speed Internet, our job isn’t finished. Resources such as Learning Blade’s new app is an innovative stop-gap that allows us to provide students a way to work at home more efficiently while we continue to build out our broadband.”
In Tennessee, Senator Bo Watson observed that “Effective and equitable education opportunities are essential for the economic health of our state, particularly to reach the rural parts of our state. As this has become more difficult in today’s environment, we appreciate companies like Thinking Media who work to create Learning Blade and the new app that brings quality STEM experiences, leveraging technology to bridge distance and resources for all”.
Initial feedback has confirmed that this app provides more equitable access to learning. Missouri teacher Amy Polanowski describes use of the Learning Blade Backpack app by saying “I have one student that has been using it at home since she has no Internet, and she loves it. She said it makes her feel like other students and she can keep up with her work without having to rush through it.”
“This crisis impacted the efficacy of online learning platforms and caused our team to re-examine how the delivery of our interdisciplinary STEM lessons might be made more equitable for low- or no-tech students at home,” said Sheila Boyington, President and CEO. “Our team began working almost immediately on a solution that would allow students without reliable Internet to continue to have access to our online lessons. We believe this may be the first solution like this and may be a model for others to follow.”
Former US Congressman Zach Wamp, Thinking Media Board Chair stated “The goals of expanding Internet access into rural areas and advancing new education tools for students who are currently in underserved markets aren’t mutually exclusive. Rich stories are emerging from rural spots in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. We are thankful for these and other leading states. We can do this!”
Learning Blade is a system of interactive lessons and printable at-home activities for 5th to 9th graders where students learn about STEM and Computer Science careers while reviewing academics aligned to all 50 states’ standards in 12 human-centered “Missions” that explore these exciting careers. This resource has been deployed in many states including statewide in Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and Missouri. Over 4 million lessons have been delivered and independent research confirms that this program increases student awareness and interest in STEM careers.
Contact: Sheila Boyington, CEO, Thinking Media, [email protected], 423-521-2309
SOURCE Thinking Media