Local Students Conclude Tech Trailblazers Mini-Camp

For many students, increased access to technology and training can provide a real sense of empowerment. Last week, eleven Tech Trailblazers participants learned the skills necessary to put together their own computer to take home.

At the conclusion of camp, one local 9th grader reflected on how he planned to use his computer and his favorite parts of the program.

Kramden’s Tech Trailblazers program offers students in grades 6-9 hands-on experience working with computer hardware, software, and networking. Students learn IT skills and explore technology careers as they work in Kramden’s refurbishing warehouse to build their own computer.

Visit https://kramden.org/education/ to learn more about Kramden’s classes and camps.


Kramden Partners with STEM West

Partnerships with organizations across the state allow Kramden to expand its impact beyond the Triangle. This spring, Kramden Institute teamed up with STEM West to distribute 240 computers to deserving students in Caldwell and Alexander Counties.

Computers ready for distribution at
Granite Falls Middle School in Caldwell County

STEM West was created in 2013 to “have a positive influence on STEM education and ultimately the workforce and economic development of western NC.” STEM West’s mission is to advocate and support the alignment of educational and occupational objectives through the regional workforce and community partnerships.

Each school district in Caldwell and Alexander county set aside a day last month to train students and their families and distribute desktop computers. Along with a demonstration of the computer’s many preinstalled programs, families were also provided information on how to access more affordable internet.

I wanted to thank you for the desktop. It has already been of great help to me, I know that the school could have used these for the new school and instead you gave them to students who don’t have a computer so they can work on projects at home. I think that is so generous and have never heard of a school caring about their students to do this.

Email excerpt from Granite Falls Middle School student

Kramden plans to continue its partnership with STEM West to expand its reach to more students in the western part of the state. To read more about STEM West, visit http://www.wpcog.org/stem-west.

Durham Residents Complete Computer Training and Receive Desktops

Recent Kramden Digital Literacy graduate and Durham Housing Authority resident Theresa was looking for a way to “jump-start a new chapter in her life” when she signed up for computer classes at McDougald Terrace’s TA Grady Center this April. She said she hoped to brush up on her skills and get a computer to use for school.

Kramden’s basic computer classes explore a variety of topics from simply learning the fundamentals of using a mouse and keyboard, to creating and editing documents, and navigating social media sites.  Upon completion, class participants receive a computer system for home use. To date, nearly 2,000 individuals have participated in Kramden’s Digital Literacy program since 2014.

Class participants follow along as instructor Bill Koeb discusses Office programs.

For Theresa, finishing the class meant not only acquiring a computer to practice her recently acquired skills, but also a boost in self-confidence.

“I’m so thankful to be completing this class. It helped me to believe in myself again. I’m going to register for classes at Durham Tech this summer, and because of this class, I now have the equipment and the self-confidence I need.”

Theresa W, Digital Literacy Class Participant

Last week, at the conclusion of the fourth course, Theresa and 17 other Durham Housing residents received their desktop computers to take home. The computers, along with eight hours of free computer training, were provided by Kramden Institute and made possible with grant funding received from Google Fiber.

The Homework Gap in North Carolina


Many students find themselves unable to complete routine homework assignments because of their lack of technology access. As a leading digital inclusion organization in NC, Kramden helped to gather data for a pilot study to better understand the homework gap in the state. Earlier this month the NC DIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office released the report.

State Broadband Office publishes Homework Gap Report

Maggie Bizzell, MPA, MSC
Read original here.


Raleigh, N.C. – Eric Boyette, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (DIT) and State Chief Information Officer, announced today the release of the “The Homework Gap in North Carolina,” a report that provides communities with strategies to bridge the homework gap that occurs when students are assigned homework that requires internet access but lack an internet connection at home.

N.C. DIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office developed the homework gap report in partnership with The William & Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University. This report contributes to a growing body of research and strategic policy recommendations designed to equip state and local policymakers, educators, and other key stakeholders with information to understand the homework gap and strategies to address it.

“We know we have many children in our state that are victims of this digital divide,” Secretary Boyette said. “Understanding the nature and scope of this problem is key to closing the homework gap.”

Governor Roy Cooper’s budget proposal makes closing the homework gap a significant priority. Governor Cooper proposes a $5 million fund to support schools that need internet hot spots for students and Wi-Fi technology for school buses. 

“Too often I hear of students doing homework in the parking lots of fast food restaurants or driving long distances to use free Wi-Fi at churches and friends’ homes,” Governor Cooper said. “This is unacceptable in this day and age and it creates inequity in our educational system.” 

Governor Cooper also signed Executive Order 91, which establishes a new Governor’s Task Force on Connecting North Carolina and directs state government leaders to identify and remove barriers to facilitate private-sector deployment of last-mile infrastructure, eliminate the homework gap, and support the adoption of affordable, high-speed internet access.

N.C. DIT has already begun implementing the report’s recommendations, including the BIO’s continued effort to gather more and better data through surveys such as the Speak Up survey. Speak Up is an annual research project and a free service to all schools and was the first online research tool designed to help parents share their ideas directly with schools and national policymakers. BIO partnered with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to include homework gap specific questions in the 2018-2019 Speak Up survey. 

One way the state is currently working to combat the homework gap is through the State Library of North Carolina and N.C. DIT’s pilot program with the Robeson County Public Library and Public Schools of Robeson County. The pilot program is funded by a $250,000 two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and will provide Robeson County Public Library with 35 Wi-Fi hotspot devices for up to 35 K-12 households.

To access the report, please visit The Homework Gap in North Carolina on the Broadband Infrastructure Office website. To take the Speak Up survey, please visit http://speakup.tomorrow.org.  

Volunteer Spotlight: The Goodnight Scholars

Take a peek into Kramden’s warehouse on any given day and you will find it bustling with volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. Kramden relies on volunteers daily to join in our mission to bridge the digital divide. Offering their experience, skills, and enthusiasm for working with technology, volunteers are one of Kramden’s most valuable assets.

Last fall, a group of NCSU students reached out with a special request. As part of the Goodnight Scholars Program’s mantra to “pay it forward,” the Goodnight Scholars Class of 2019 wanted to support a charitable organization as part of their senior class gift by both volunteering their time and raising funds for Kramden.

Founded in 2008 with a gift from Dr. Jim and Ann Goodnight, the Goodnight Scholars program was established with the goal of helping North Carolina students from low- and middle-income families become leaders in the STEM and educational fields.

The Goodnight Scholars have joined Kramden several times this school year to put their technical skills to work, troubleshooting newly refurbished computers and preparing them to be distributed to students. Visit https://goodnight.ncsu.edu/ to learn more about the program.

“Serving at Kramden was a blast! We loved taking apart the machines together and learned a lot about fixing computers in the process. Volunteers do not always see the end results of their labor, so I was excited to watch the finished computers leave the assembly ready to be distributed. My favorite part about volunteering here, however, was the direct impact of our assembled machines in making learning more enjoyable for North Carolina students, the future of STEM.”

Timothy Chen, Mechanical Engineering Student and Goodnight Scholar

Kramden is always looking for volunteers with a passion for our mission and willingness to help. We currently have a particular need for daytime volunteers on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and Thursday and Friday mornings. Register for an upcoming volunteer event here.

Keith Ertel is Geek of the Year!

2018 was a big year for Kramden with more than 3,400 volunteers logging over 13,500 hours! This year, one of our top volunteers, Keith Ertel, has been selected as Kramden’s Geek of the Year. Keith contributed over 230 volunteer hours in 2018, bringing his total time at Kramden to over 600 hours!

 

We checked in with our Geek of the Year (and former Geek of the Week) to find out some of Keith’s favorite things about Kramden.

As one of our top volunteers in 2018, what was your favorite project or event you helped out with this year?

My favorite project was any one that involved a “Your update is downloading, please wait a few minutes” message and a spinning hourglass on the screen. Seriously, I have enjoyed all the activities I participated in this year. Working on-site gave me a chance to interact with some great people and learn new things, as did the offsite events. And helping out at the recycling events showed me I am not the only one who is reluctant to part with older technology.

You’ve been volunteering with Kramden for over 3 years now. What keeps you coming back?

I’ve been blessed throughout my life and I believe trying to give something back is important. Why Kramden? I like the fact that the mission is focused is on helping young people/students. They benefit, and technology that is still useful is kept out of the landfill. Another important consideration is the people. The staff is great, as are the many volunteers I’ve worked with. I like the spirit of camaraderie. And I like the nature of the work. I spent many an hour typing ‘peek’ and ‘poke’ statements to transcribe programs from a magazine onto my Commodore 64, and I’ve built most of the computers I’ve owned since then. Volunteering at Kramden helps me keep my inner geek alive.

A great big thanks to Keith and to all of the Kramden volunteers of 2018! Your work brings us one step closer to bridging the digital divide.

Program Impact

Kramden’s Community Education & Access program provides participants with eight hours of basic computer training and a computer upon completion. In the first 6 months of 2018, 230 participants completed the program. Recently, Kramden surveyed these participants to see how their newfound computer knowledge and device has impacted their lives. Results are shown below.

 

Lights, Camera, Action! at Video Exploration Camp

At Video Exploration camp, campers filmed and edited several video projects including an interview and a movie trailer. The students took turns editing and shooting for their projects, which turned out really well. The camp provided everyone with a solid foundation for using video for their own personal projects in the future.

Campers worked in groups to create a mock interview, during which they learned how to use lighting, external microphones, and multiple camera angles. Campers used storyboard techniques to organize and order their shots for another group project, a movie trailer. They prepared scripts, found or created sound effects, voiceovers, and soundtracks, and found photo backgrounds to use as their green-screened ‘backdrops.’ Campers got a lot of hands-on time with a web-based video editor called WeVideo. We covered technical aspects such as trimming, multi-tracking, transitions, sound effects and foley, audio levels, and greenscreen compositing.

Space is still available in the August 13-17 session of Video Exploration Camp (for grades 6-8). Use code AUGUST20 to get $20 off your registration. Register here.

Inset photo: A student records a scene.
Top photo: Interview filming in progress.

Campers create inspiring images in Photo Exploration Camp

Our first session of Photo Exploration Camp in June was inspiring. It was exciting to see the group’s progress and how much fun they had taking and editing photos. The students took their work to a higher level and developed a better eye for design and composition.

Projects included photographing still lifes, landscapes, and portraits. Students also learned how to incorporate personal reflection and feedback from others into their projects to improve their photos. The results were beautiful, especially the still life and portrait assignments, where the students had to use three point lighting and create images that reflected concepts they developed beforehand.

Space is still available in the August 6-10 session of Photo Exploration Camp (for grades 6-8). Use code AUGUST20 to get $20 off your registration. Register here.

Inset photo: Portrait of Courtney by Olivia.
Top photo: Deck of cards still life by Maurice.

Laptops and Tablets Awarded in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua

This February, Kramden Institute, in partnership with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club, GCF Global, and the Center for Development in Central America awarded 42 laptops and 70 tablets to the students of Ciudad Sandino in Nicaragua.

 

Volunteer Stephanie Schenck, a PHD student in Literacy Language and Culture at Clemson, and Rotary Peace Fellow, Moh Eid, aided in the distribution and training of the educators on how to use the technology in the classroom.

Devices went to two primary schools and one secondary school in the area. Included with the devices were power conditioners and backup batteries to combat the poor electrical grid. 6 laptops were also provided for the dental clinic at Jubilee House to be used for analyzing x-rays and charting.

This was Kramden’s third year partnering with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club to bring computers to Central America.