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Morino Institute From Access to Outcomes: Digital Divide Report and Dialogue

    Premise Six
Report Supplement
Using the Report

Premise Six:
Recognize That Technology Requires Its Own Capacity

As anyone who has ever attempted to set up an Internet account or pick up the pieces after a computer system crash knows all too well, information technology is not nearly smart enough to be easy to use. Therefore, investments in technology must go far beyond funding for hardware, software, and wires; they must include significant additional funding to help people understand, apply, and manage the technology.

For most projects, no more than one-third of the funding should go to technology itself, leaving more than two-thirds for educating staff and developing programs that help organizations tap technology’s true potential. In addition, large investments are sorely needed to help build and strengthen intermediary organizations that can better assist low-income communities in their efforts to acquire, apply, and support technology.

Case in Point: Educating the Educators in Washington, DC

In 1998, Calvary Bilingual Multicultural Learning Center, a highly respected organization providing daycare, after-school programs, training, and other services in the ethnically diverse Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC, decided to take its use of technology to a new level.

Calvary had provided basic technology instruction through a computer lab consisting of nine stand-alone PCs and three Macintoshes; the lab had dial-up Internet access, but little access to broader web-based resources. Through a two-year partnership with the Morino Institute called the Youth Development Collaborative Pilot (YDC), Calvary improved its ability to apply technology, infusing it throughout the organization and its programs.

Working with YDC, Calvary built a Networked Learning Center to serve as a platform for a variety of educational programs. A significant amount of YDC resources were invested in management and staff development, including 18 months of intensive training.

Senior managers at Calvary were assigned personal technology mentors. YDC specialists worked closely with two Calvary staffers in particular—Marta Urquilla, the youth development director, and Jomo Graham, the technology director, both of whom had worked extensively in youth development and technology. Urquilla, Graham, and other key staff members met regularly with YDC specialists to collaborate on strategies for "project-based learning," an approach through which students apply a range of technology tools, from the Internet to digital cameras, to explore a given topic.

The partnership yielded more than better programs; it also helped produce a stronger youth-serving organization. Staff members for school-age programs, who once relied on photocopied templates, now create documents on computers and do research online. Email is an especially useful communication tool for Calvary’s largely part-time staff, many of whom work on staggered schedules while attending school. Staff members now use email as well as internal electronic mailing lists called "e-groups" to share ideas, make decisions, plan programs, and learn about each other’s activities. The teaching materials from YDC training sessions are available online at, and Calvary uses the materials as a resource both for orienting new employees and for conducting annual strategic planning. The organization has developed new databases to keep track of the students and families it serves. And Calvary’s managers have a better understanding of technology’s potential for not only teaching technical skills but also for helping people improve their lives.

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