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Community Impact Series -- Digital Opportunity Trust


By Ian McNulty

New Orleans, La. –
Getting technology in the classroom has been a mantra within education circles for years. But the marching orders for one nonprofit now at work in the New Orleans area is about getting the most out of it.

"So what we would find when we went to the schools was that there was technology there, it was just that the teachers really needed someone who could spend the time with them, one on one, as much time as they needed and let them be comfortable really using that technology," says Ginny Sims, communications director for the Digital Opportunity Trust. "And so you might find a teacher who had an interactive board in their classroom for years and had only been using it to show movies or had even been writing on it with a dry-erase marker."

The Digital Opportunity Trust, or DOT, is a nonprofit working across the globe to improve people's lives through technology. In 2006, as part of the effort to help rebuild shattered local schools after Hurricane Katrina, the group established its TeachUp! Program specifically to help optimize classroom technology. Instead of conventional training sessions and workshops, however, TeachUp recruits young adults and then deploys them into the schools to work directly with teachers year-round to harness classroom technology's potential.

"They really get to know the teacher and take the time to empower her to use those tools. So not just coming in to a classroom and saying watch me show your kids how to use technology but taking the teacher and saying this is a tool that you can use and this is how you can use it," says Sims. "It's really about putting the tools and knowledge in the teachers' hands so that they can grow from there."

One of those TeachUp interns is Angela Golden, who received her own technology training from DOT and was soon at work at Estelle Elementary School in Marrero. Her work began by showing teachers some of the tools they already had at their fingertips.

"It's the simplest things that they needed help with and that really helped to establish a bond with a good core group of teachers," says Golden. "And once a teacher sees you doing something with someone else they get jealous. And they want that in their classroom as well. They'll come to you (saying) I saw you did this, and saw you did this that this teacher, and can you show my classroom and can you just show me and I'll show my classroom."

DOT's impact isn't limited to schools. Its interns also spend time at libraries and job centers helping adults improve their own computer literacy, again working one-on-one to give them better access to technology's potential. For the interns themselves, the TeachUp experience can be a transformative one too. Many leverage their experience with the program into tech jobs or education careers. For Angela Golden it's been a huge confidence boost for her abilities and her prospects for the future.

"I basically touch people, impact lives through technology," she says. "I change the way you learn a different subject, I change the way a teacher teaches a different subject."

Learn more about the Digital Opportunity Trust here.

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