High School Digital Tech Training

BridgingApps has teamed with the ESGH High School/High Tech program to help high school students hone their mobile-device skills. The first two training sessions, each for a different group of five students with disabilities, were in November 2022 and May 2023.

Topics covered included:

  • Smartphone basics
  • Finding online information and verifying its reliability
  • Accessing virtual services, including healthcare and transportation
  • Accessing urgent and emergency services
  • Tracking one’s physical and mental health

… plus teaching these digital skills to others, in the interest of creating a long-term self-sustaining model for promoting digital literacy and career planning.

Below, two members of our BridgingApps team share their experience participating in the November and May training sessions.

Alejandra “Ale” Gonzalez, Digital Navigator:

Most participants already had the digital skills we focused on, so it was mostly a matter of teaching them how to teach others. It’s really important to empower them and make them realize how important these skills are.

One great moment was when two teens were teaching their teacher how to drop a pin on Google Maps. Despite their best efforts, the teacher finally had to ask a third teen to explain it to her. As the first two looked on, one of them said, “That’s exactly what I was telling you to do!” A great example of how sometimes people just don’t understand a certain teaching style, so it’s important to have multiple ways to explain the same concept. As a Digital Navigator, I know you have to cater to different people’s ways of learning; and, if you sometimes have to send someone to a peer who can explain it in a different way, this doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong.

The teens especially loved getting to use the opposite phone of what they regularly used [i.e., Android owners practicing digital skills on iPhones, and vice versa]. They were pros!

Amy Fuchs, Program Manager:

I second what Ale said: the students teaching their teacher was a magical moment. A perfect real-life example of how sometimes your best teaching doesn’t work for another individual, and there’s nothing wrong with asking someone else to help.

In both sessions, the students were quiet at the beginning of the training and mostly listening. Once they began to realize that they already knew the answers to most of the questions, they became eager to show their knowledge, and were all up for the challenge of trying a different device—unlike the typical reaction from adult trainees, myself included, which is usually a groan of anticipated frustration.

Training the students to train others is the hardest part. They’re confident and ready to share their knowledge when they finish the program; however, adolescents tend to feel comfortable sharing with family members and other people they know well, but it’s harder to stay confident about reaching out to more casual contacts. Our November cohort trained fewer people than expected when left to do it on their own, so I hope we can develop a system for partnering newly trained students with their first trainees, people who will also support the students to gain confidence in their teaching abilities.

The High School/High Tech program at Easter Seals Greater Houston was created to help remedy the high dropout rate among students with disabilities, by introducing them hands on to technology careers. Students from 10 local school districts completed HS/HT in the 2022–2023 school year.

Thanks to Comcast for their generous grant toward “Digital Inclusion Training Curriculum Development for Youth with Disabilities” and to Caresource for providing funding to train students as Digital Navigators. Thanks also to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for their collaboration on the digital training sessions.

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