February 23, 2001
Studies have shown that access to computers, including the Internet, are important for enhancing student entry and academic success in such highly technical fields as science, math and engineering. However, access to computer technology is often difficult for low-income students a situation that has been termed "the digital divide."
To help address the concern locally, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Cal-SOAP (California Student Opportunity and Access Program) have joined with Gomp-ers Secondary School in the San Diego Unified School District in a pilot program that exposes Gompers seventh graders to intensive computer-based instruction in science and math after school.
The program, which further strengthens the academic partnerships already in place between Gompers, UCSD, and Cal-SOAP, also uses computer technology to link participating students with math and science tutors and mentors at UCSD through live video connections known as "web cams."
Titled "Through Windows and Lenses: Technology in Focus," the effort is made possible through a $30,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications. The grant was established to help institutions of higher education support the recruitment and retention of qualified minority undergraduates in science and mathematics disciplines. UCSD is one of 15 universities and colleges selected nationally to receive the two-year 2000 Verizon FOCUS award.
Gompers is an ethnically diverse, inner-city school that serves as a science, math and computer technology magnet facility in the San Diego Unified School district for grades 7 through 12. The grant will support after-school, computer-based instruction at the school for 50 seventh graders (25 students per year).
Donald Mitchell, Gompers principal, says, "We are extremely happy to collaborate our efforts with UCSD and Cal-SOAP on the Verizon grant. Our math and science faculty will help identify participants for the program, and we will provide Saturday access to a personal computer lab for students so that they may begin to learn how to use both computers and the Internet for scientific investigation. In addition, we want our students to gain a better understanding of the usefulness of science and math in their lives."
Joseph Watson, UCSD Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs, expressed appreciation to Verizon for supporting UCSD's expanding efforts to use technology to facilitate outreach for K-12 students as well as enhancing student learning and academic achievement.
Computer Learning Brought to Life With Field Trips and `Web Cams'
In addition to teaching students how to apply computer use to math and scientific investigation, the Saturday workshops at Gompers will also include "hands on" science-related field trips and presentations by UCSD science and engineering faculty. A one-week summer residential tutorial held at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and other locations on the UCSD campus will allow students to apply knowledge and skills learned in the Saturday workshops, and to tour such UCSD sites as the Jacobs School of Engineering, and the School of Medicine.
Web cams will allow Gomp-ers students working from their computer stations at School or home to simultaneously see, hear, and communicate in writing with their math or science tutors and mentors at UCSD.
The grant will be administered by Cal-SOAP, a consortium representing high educational institutions, and school districts throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties with the aim of preparing low-income students for college.
"Given the current disparities in computer use and Internet access between low-income and high-income socioeconomic groups," says Linda Doughty, director of Cal SOAP in San Diego and Imperial Counties, "we recognize the importance of providing early exposure to these technological resources for low-income and underrepresented students to help close this digital divide and assist such students in gaining successful entry into the scientific workforce."
In addition to enhanced computer skills and increased interest in math and science, other expected student outcomes include enrollment in higher math and science classes at the high school level.
Student participants in the effort will be selected from a cohort of seventh-graders already involved in the school's $1.8 million GEAR-UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) federal grant initiative with UCSD and Cal-SOAP.