BridgingApps in the Field: Our New Comcast-Funded Digital Literacy Program

BridgingApps is excited and grateful for Easterseals’ partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation. Among the many projects funded by Comcast grants is our digital literacy training for transition-age high school students, “transition” referring to the beginning of legal adulthood and independent living.

Many teens with disabilities have not thought a great deal about their future post-high school, nor have their families – who have focused mostly on navigating and supporting their children through the school system.  With 80 percent of working-age adults with disabilities unemployed, many challenges persist in preparing these students for gaining employment and staying employed.

Programs and supports that leverage students’ abilities – that focus on building personal strengths and skills – contribute to real achievement and reaching goals. One step in that direction is BridgingApps’ Digital Literacy Training project, designed to implement a STEM-focused digital literacy curriculum that can be integrated into job training.

What does a digital literacy curriculum look like? How does it work? How do these skills translate into success for high school students and especially those teens with intellectual or developmental disabilities who face extra challenges as they move towards adulthood?

We invited Tara Rocha (BridgingApps Digital Learning Specialist) and Yvonne Kelly (Transition Career Activities Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston) to share notes from the field from their work with these hard working, talented and eager young people!

BridgingApps: What are some of the critical digital skills needed for long-term employment and fostering a sense of self-sufficiency?

Tara – Many students need practice in using Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel. Maybe some have been introduced to it before in school, but often they just need repetition and opportunities to practice. These skills can then help them understand how to craft a well formatted resume, fill out online applications and use email and social media in a professional way with guidance. Other critical skills we work on involve how to spot and avoid employment scams, participating in virtual interviews, and finding what kinds of assistive technologies might be useful for each person.

As a first step toward mastery of these skills, these trainings cover eight aspects of digital literacy:

  1. Functional Skills
  2. Creativity
  3. Critical Thinking and Evaluation
  4. Cultural and Social Understanding
  5. Collaboration
  6. Ability to Find and Select Information
  7. Effective Communication
  8. E-Safety

Yvonne: We are proud of our students who are working at various internships this summer. Working together to provide digital skills training really complements the students’ interests in the area of going deeper into computer terminology; mouse and trackpad options; connecting devices to other equipment; and file management.  These small groups of students will also participate in training sessions that include “Job Readiness” classes and “Financial Literacy” basics.

History of the Digital Literacy Training Project

BridgingApps began the Digital Literacy Training project in spring 2023, bringing our expertise into public high schools throughout the Greater Houston area. We appreciate the collaboration with our partners to support students in preparing them for post high school work and education:

  • Rochelle Fowkes, transition teacher at Seven Lakes High School in Katy ISD. Rochelle is skilled at helping students build professional portfolios, including certificates for trainings they attend.
  • John Spelce at Clements High School in Fort Bend ISD.
  • Debra Wingard at Dulles High School in Fort Bend ISD.
  • Chris Keenan at GiGi’s Playhouse Sugar Land.
  • Ana Esparza at the Arc of Harris County.

As student participants graduate from high school, we stay in touch with them as they move into the working world. Some are currently working on digital literacy assignments on flexible at-home schedules, while simultaneously gaining work experience in the community. In meeting students’ needs where they are, we provide them with resources for remote support and in-person sessions.

Showcasing Student Success

  • Logan showed first-rate potential and was in the Katy ISD program when we learned that his family was getting ready to move. Since he would have to finish the course remotely, we worked to provide him with self-paced lessons. He was especially excited to print out a computer-hardware/software certificate for his physical portfolio—and to show it off. Once his family is settled again, we plan to continue his training.
  • Ping came to us through James Reese Technical School in Fort Bend ISD. She is now a high school graduate, a Houston Community College student, a 2023 summer intern in the RAMP program at Easter Seals Greater Houston—and still an active client of BridgingApps. At our most recent training, we showed her how to use her iPad like a laptop. Ping’s favorite tech tools are Microsoft’s Edge Browser and Immersive Reader, for their voice-to-text editing capacities.

What Comes Next

Tara: We are excited to continue our work in Katy and Fort Bend this fall and recruiting more students to participate in Digital Literacy Training is ongoing.

Yvonne: Our High School/High Tech program is already working with three Clear Creek ISD summer interns, who are getting hands-on work experience repairing student laptops for the CCISD Technology Learning Center. The staff there has been super-impressed with them all, and said they would gladly hire any of them for the first open full-time position.

In the short time these students have been at CCISD, they have repaired almost 1,000 computers, and the director has promised to write them each a detailed letter of recommendation. We are so proud of them! When everybody is empowered to become a full and equal participant in society, everybody benefits!

For more information about our Digital Literacy Training program for transition aged high school students, please contact Tara Rocha.

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