Parenting in a pandemic: It’s been one long learning process for people with children this year.
And learning is again the focus as schools in the U.S. and Europe reopen for the fall.
But challenges abound. What if your child’s educational opportunities depend on reliable internet? Or on a computer you don’t have? And what happened this year to special camps and programs that could no longer meet in person?
The Micron Foundation has always made education a priority. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation prioritized giving to projects that preserved learning opportunities for students while also revamping one of its own programs for our new coronavirus reality.
Enabling classrooms at home
Shifting an entire school system onto a virtual platform is more complicated — as parents and educators saw firsthand this year.
In the pandemic’s early months, the Micron Foundation provided grants to organizations across the United States to support remote learning and distance education. Joined now by additional investments in Italy, that money continues to help schools and students in Micron’s site communities prepare for an uncertain school year this fall. (See a full list of Micron’s COVID-19 giving.)
There are several concerns here. One is simply the logistics of launching an online solution for large numbers of students. Another is that not every student has equal access to the internet.
According to Federal Communications Commission and Pew Research Center statistics gathered by the Washington Post, as many as 21 million Americans lacked high-speed internet access in recent years. Almost one-fifth of K-12 students in the U.S. did not have either effective internet or a reliable computer to do their homework. The problems tend to be worse in rural areas and affect low-income and minority populations to a greater extent.
Where has Micron helped?
In San Jose, California, a Foundation grant will provide internet access for 150 families in the Franklin-McKinley School District, addressing their immediate needs while building connections that will keep those families online in future years. The project is part of the Digital Inclusion Fund, a multiyear initiative by the city to address the technology gap for 50,000 households; while it predated COVID-19, the timing couldn’t be more fortunate.
In Idaho, the Foundation contributed to a similar project — a fund that will augment state efforts to connect students to the internet so they can learn remotely. Idaho Business for Education, of which Micron is a trustee member, partnered with Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho State Board of Education in efforts to provide a computer and internet connectivity to every student in Idaho who needed it for the 2020-21 school year. The Micron Foundation also has a member on the committee Little created to direct the project. Its work has included an Aug. 5 spare-device collection drive that Micron employees contributed to.
In Italy, the Foundation is also helping educators strengthen their virtual education programs. Grants will support schools in Aversa, Avezzano, Bergamo, Meda and Usmate Velate. Italian schools had difficulties securing the means to conduct education safely during the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak, so the responsibility for schooling fell on the parents. With classes about to resume this fall, schools must quickly acquire the technology, licenses and training necessary to conduct education safely again. As in the U.S., students who lack access to proper devices or high-speed internet are among the most likely to face growing inequalities. Micron already has great working relationships with these schools, and the Italy team is looking into other support — perhaps providing volunteers to act as subject matter experts in technology.
These are just a few of the projects Micron supports. Outside the COVID-19 fund, the Foundation financially supports the Silicon Valley Education Foundation and the San Francisco 49ers Foundation STEAM EDU program — both of which had to shift all their summer programs online. Micron team members have volunteered with such groups to help them enhance their online offerings. Volunteers with Micron Hispanic Professionals, a resource group dedicated to promoting leadership development and networking opportunities for Hispanic employees, also helped the state of Idaho translate a parent education document on distance learning into Spanish.
Summer camp moves online
The 20th year of Micron’s summer science camp (dubbed Tech Camp instead of Chip Camp) still found a way to be hands-on despite moving from classrooms and Micron meeting rooms to Zoom.
Micron engineers gave virtual presentations to the camp students, all recently graduated eighth graders. No one toured Micron headquarters. But each student still had a bit of camp at home: The Micron Foundation team mailed them kits containing T-shirts, swag and all the materials they needed to assemble projects at home.
Each of the camp’s four sessions filled up. In all, Micron hosted 30 to 40 students in each of the first three weeks and 50 students in the fourth, a week centered on diverse and underserved children.
Moving Tech Camp online allowed the Foundation to continue to inspire learning and cultivate tomorrow’s innovative technology leaders. It also demonstrated the potential for quickly pivoting education models to an online format.
The pandemic renders education more challenging, but it is no less important than before COVID-19 arrived. Through the Foundation, Micron is doing its part to help children, parents and educators succeed.