The Skinny on the “Silicon Beach:” Examining Tech Talk in SoCal

smbayLos Angeles is known for its sunshine, movie stars, and beach bodies, but what about technology? Lately, the term “Silicon Beach” has been buzzing around town as more groups are joining the effort to turn L.A. into a technology hub on the west coast. I’m even hearing our city leaders use the term as we gear up for a mayoral election in May. Eric Garcetti, mayoral candidate and current city councilmember, has plans to harness technology to create jobs, streamline government, and save taxpayer dollars. It’s exciting to see technology take a front seat out here.

As a Schools Manager for EverFi in L.A., it is my job to bring online learning to SoCal communities. Since the beginning of the school year, over 95 schools have implemented EverFi’s online learning platforms in the SoCal region and more are coming online each week. This is a great accomplishment; however, I can’t help but think that we can do better. There are thousands of schools with the potential to use our online learning platforms, so why aren’t all of them coming online? And what do educators really think about all of this tech talk? Determined to find out, I packed my bags and hit the road, stopping in Redondo Beach for the formation of the new L.A. Regional STEM Hub, San Diego for the California Charter Schools Association Conference, and Palm Springs for the Annual CUE Conference. (Thank you to Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls” for providing the soundtrack to my drive.) From L.A. to San Diego to Palm Springs, there was high energy and enthusiasm around educational technology. Educators were discussing concepts like personalized learning, blended learning, and examining how to pick great online courses. However, despite the plethora of topics being discussed, there were two in particular that kept coming up over and over and over again.

  • Common Core: How can teachers teach the common core and integrate technology at the same time? Where are the linkages? What types of activities incorporate both?
  • 1:1 Device Programs: How can teachers prepare for iPad, BYOD, and other 1:1 device programs being launched in their schools/districts?

It was clear that the teachers at these conferences were aware of the technology revolution they were facing and wanted to equip themselves to be as prepared as possible. Technology in the classroomAs I reflected on everything I had seen and heard, I came up with this conclusion. While more and more schools and districts are being provided with the technology infrastructure to make online learning possible (hardware, software, Internet), a new type of “digital divide” has emerged in our schools. Now, the challenge is helping to prepare all teachers to use that technology in a meaningful way in their classrooms. After all, what’s the point in having the technology if you’re not able to use it effectively? In the future, there will no longer be designated “computer teachers” on campus– all teachers will need to be technology teachers.

Luckily, EverFi keeps it simple and is mindful of the challenges teachers are facing. Our K-12 platforms are easy to implement and are low-maintenance for teachers. They align to common core standards and are being adapted to run on iPads and tablets as we speak. And what better way to start a 1:1 device program than to have students complete our 4-hour digital literacy curriculum first so they can learn to use that new device safely and responsibly? We firmly believe that any teacher can implement our platforms without getting a migraine, and we’re here to help every step of the way. While I am very proud of the progress we have made in SoCal this school year, it is clear that there is more work to be done. I will continue to listen, learn, contribute to the conversation, and do whatever I can to bring meaningful online learning to the region. (And hopefully I’ll have some time in between to work on my tan as well.) Until next time, follow me on Twitter @SarahASerota for updates on EverFi’s work in SoCal.