For this blog post I’d like to talk about what seems like the early steps in finding a network of digital inclusion minded individuals in New Mexico, who comprises this network, what activities the Digital Inclusion Pilot is conducting with them, and my thoughts on sustainability and the future.
To start, my organization, Explora Science Museum, already has ties with a UNM EPSCoR project: Natives in STEM, I wrote a short email to meet with Chelsea Chee, the head of this project, to discuss Natives in STEM attending a few of our outreaches (and I’m happy to say I’ll be working with her on the 7th in Shiprock New Mexico). She suggested I hold an outreach at the Senator John Pinto Library and introduced me to the wonderful librarian she had already worked with there: Samanthi Hewapakuge. For the staff at the Senator John Pinto Library I have put together a small digitally inclusive workshop which I will hold for them on the 7th. In that workshop I will stress the importance of being a local advocate and all that entails. Samanthi Hewapakuge is the model of that advocate.
Samanthi and I planned an un-marketed event on the 24th of August Pictures of this event to be included in this blog, at the bottom I will link a folder that contains them in advance of our September 7th event to test materials and meet people from the library. At that event I met an individual who will be volunteering at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair, and encouraged me to apply to attend. Since the Fair is very well attended, I hope to have a table to facilitate some light STEM activities and distribute a customized parent packet along with a hotspot demonstration. At this event I was also introduced to the FACE program from a participating parent, and have made contact with FACE to offer the support of the Digital Inclusion Pilot project here in New Mexico. After some research I found that FACE provides a resource network to parents in their participating school district. As we are in the habit of breaking silos I hope to gain access to this silo of information, and contribute digitally inclusive information to this resource network.
Last of all from the internally distributed flyer for September 7th, a STEM minded faculty member at Dine’ College found my contact information and contacted me for a potential partnership with him in his work to bring professional development to future STEM educators studying at Dine’ College. This partnership is still in the works but I see an opportunity here for me to expand on Explora’s Professional Development workshops, building on the small volunteer orientation and workshop I hope to implement in a few days. We could start at the very beginning and create the advocates rural New Mexico badly needs by training these future educators to know what digital equity means, learning about what resources already exist in New Mexico, and showing them how important it is to STEM education that students have access to computers, especially in the home.
This seems to be striking at the core of what this pilot is intended to do: build networks with like minded individuals, create a conversation around digital access without reinventing the wheel, and activate community members to continue the work after the project is done. I have not had to spread the enthusiasm for STEM education, the groundwork is already long in place for that. What I have had to do is change the conversation from STEM learning, to home digital access, which is a vital component to a child’s education, and a family’s future. We’re working in a part of our nation that when I ask a parent about having internet in their home, I am sometimes met with the response that they don’t even have electricity. The challenge is there to be met, but hopefully by slowly finding the advocates and digital inclusion warriors in the field, we can start to build a sustainable network to address the part of STEM education most overlooked: how to bring digital access to families.