Syracuse University, AT&T, the Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) and Tech4Kidz partnered this summer to create the Central New York region’s first free summer digital literacy and education program designed to address issues of equity in technology education and to help local students affected by the digital divide.
AT&T’s ‘Cuse Digital Experience is designed to encourage underserved and diverse students to enter technology, an industry that has long faced a pervasive diversity gap. The program provided more than 120 underrepresented Syracuse City School District students in grades four through eight with the opportunity to gain critical digital literacy and readiness skills through unique immersive technology-focused experiences while encouraging them to explore STEM and technology educational and career paths
Over the course of the program, students learned a wide range of digital literacy skills, including cyber security, positive use of social media, analyzing search engine results, computer coding basics, keyboard skills, artificial intelligence, 3D printing disciplines, digital animation , robotics, computer-based design for building and public space projects, and skills in finding factual news online.
Students also learned how technology can be used for good and community building by creating solutions and discovering creative applications to address issues affecting youth in the region, such as digital citizenship, while learning the dangers of cyberbullying, cyber fraud and issues with the digital footprint that harm children’s reputations later in life.
“We are grateful to AT&T and our collaborative partners for allowing us to bring digital citizenship to so many local students. During our time together, we were able to learn more about safety and how to protect our personal information in the digital world,” says Deborah Nosky, professor of practice in the School of Information Studies. “By expanding students’ understanding and use of digital technology, students were able to better understand how the skills we learned applied to careers they were already familiar with and new ones they might want to explore.”
“Technology is renewing and transforming our world and creating limitless opportunities for those who know how to unlock its potential. That’s why I’m so excited for the 120 Syracuse City School District students who participated in AT&T’s inaugural ‘Cuse Digital Experience summer program. They learned valuable skills that will surely be the foundation for their future success – and the economic prosperity of our community,” said Jennifer Tift, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the City of Syracuse. “I am deeply grateful to AT&T, the Museum of Science and Technology, Tech4Kidz and Syracuse University for offering such an impactful program to our children. Partnerships like this make it possible to create more inclusive educational and economic opportunities for families of all backgrounds.”
Digital literacy has become the new literacy and is the driver of all new global technologies. With the growing demand for innovation, organizations across industries are struggling to fill skilled positions. By 2025, there are projected to be 3.5 million STEM and digital jobs in the U.S., highlighting the importance of giving youth the tools and skills needed to compete in this innovation economy.
The urgency of a more diversely trained workforce is underscored by the low rate of diversity in the tech industry’s makeup. This troubling lack of diversity in the tech industry and the growing STEM job market underscores the importance of making programming like AT&T’s ‘Cuse Digital Experience available to youth of all backgrounds and economic situations.
“It was a pleasure to teach and learn from these energetic local students about technology and digital citizenship. We thank AT&T for making this possible,” said Lori Ferger, a faculty member in the School of Information Studies.
The free program is made possible by financial support and programmatic collaboration from AT&T as part of the company’s $2 billion nationwide commitment from 2021-2023 to help close the digital divide and the home divide.
“It was an honor to collaborate with MOST, Tech4Kidz and Syracuse University to offer this innovative experience to these students, as it further reinforces our commitment to providing educational programming resources for digital literacy everywhere and builds on our energetic efforts to bridge the diversity gap in the technology industry,” said Kevin Hanna, director of external affairs, AT&T. “I am so impressed with these remarkable students and proud of their determination throughout the summer, working hard to gain critical digital literacy skills, they all have great futures ahead of them.”