Inspiredu and its community partners are preparing to welcome a second cohort to We Are L.I.T.- Learning Illuminated by Tech, a multi-generational place-based program.
“We Are L.I.T. is an opportunity to support reading, writing, digital and life skills for both parents and students,” said Oneisha Freeman, Inspiredu Director of Partnerships & Programs. “Each partner takes the part we do the best,” Freeman said. “We take the digital skills, Ms. Gwen Braswell [Dry Bones Collaborative Outreach does the reading and writing skills and Ms. Teresa Lumpkin Williams [Blessing Working Together] brings in partners for the life skills. It’s been beautiful to see.”
In Georgia, 17% of students cannot complete online assignments at home due to lack of connectivity. Yet 70% of teachers assign homework to complete online and school system one-to-one device initiatives rarely address the parents’ capacity to help their child navigate the digital landscape.
“There are parents in this community who want to become empowered to help their children to become better students,” Braswell said. “They just need a little inspiration and direction on how to navigate that journey.”
That’s why Inspiredu (formerly known as Power Power MyLearning Greater Atlanta) and its education, nonprofit and government partners work together to provide underserved students and their families with technology, training, and support to create a successful learning environment at home. To date, Inspiredu has connected with 60+ education partners, trained 26,000 individuals and deployed nearly 16,000 home computers with free ongoing technical support.
“We want to help increase parents’ confidence in their ability to learn so they can instill the same confidence in their children,” Freeman said. “If I’m a confident learner – confident with technology, finding resources online, managing my money, looking for a job – then I can instill that confidence in my child when they go to learn something new.”
We Are L.I.T. meets learners of all ages where they are by bringing programming to The Commons, an apartment complex in the Westhaven community, located near several MARTA bus stops, I-285 and I-20. Property management, Preservation Partners Management Group, supports the initiative by accommodating the separate parent and youth workshops in the complex’s community room and business center equipped with computer stations.
“What is very special about being at an apartment complex is that the kids can just walk over there,” Freeman said. “It takes the lift off the parents for their kids and for them to participate.”
Braswell, who also resides at The Commons, has worked on creative writing with youth at the complex since 2016 and has built trust among her neighbors. She reached out to Inspiredu during the pandemic for what would ultimately become the We Are L.I.T program.
“What I have learned about this amazing group of youth is they are eager to learn, and their creative minds give me the fuel to challenge them more and more,” Braswell said. ”I am thrilled to be introducing more figurative language to the group and incorporating more creativity to engage their learning experience. We introduce new themes each month, and I am able to add life skills to the learning recipe that will make reading and writing fun.”
Five parents and 25 students participated in the pilot that ended in July. This is just the beginning, as We Are L.I.T. seeks to reach more of the 500 households at The Commons.
“We can be there a while,” Freeman said. “We said we wanted elementary, middle and high school students. We got PreK. We learned that students often needed to bring their younger siblings – so we work with all the kids. Our program has to be flexible with all of the learners in the home no matter what age.”
At the culmination event at the end of the program, Inspiredu presents devices to participants – laptops to families with a parent participant and tablets to youth if a parent didn’t participate. With increased digital literacy, Inspiredu proposes that families will be able to support their student’s digital learning, engage more with teachers and ultimately reach better education and career outcomes.
“We are doing the right thing coming to them,” Freeman said. “Making it as convenient as possible but also providing consistency and a resource. I’m excited about expanding it across other communities. We’ll be duplicating this in DeKalb County.”
For the next cohort at The Commons, We are L.I.T. is working to connect with a partner to provide physical books for children to take home to accompany digital reading.
“We want them reading as much as possible,” Freeman said.
If these efforts have inspired you to get involved, there are many ways to do so.
“We make it very tangible,” Freeman said. “People can give their time, their technology, their money and be a part of what we’re doing – we welcome that.”
For example, Inspiredu needs digital champion volunteers to help at adult workshops at its West Midtown warehouse training center. Sign up at iuatl.org/volunteer and attend an orientation offered virtually Mondays at noon.
“We are always in need of devices,” Freeman said. “We take Macs, PC laptops and all types of desktops and printers [see iuatl.org/technology]. If it has a hard drive, we wipe it clean and give a certificate of data destruction. If we can, we repurpose that computer as a home learning center. What we can’t repurpose, we will recycle responsibly.”
Channeling more of these resources into collaborative efforts like We Are L.I.T. promises narrow the digital inclusion gap.
“We are off to a great start, with more volunteers and support, we can sow beautiful seeds that will continually impact future generations!” Braswell said.
For more information, visit iuatl.org.