April 6, 2019

Cyborg Mobile Delivers Digital Learning Solution to Help School District Address  Equity Gap in Student Achievement

 

Investing in Diversity Initiatives to Improve Equity in Education

A large public K-12 school district in the western U.S. realized they were experiencing a significant disparity in achievement between its white and non-white students. Academic achievement rates were far lower for Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Meanwhile, the suspension rates relative to enrollment size were disproportionately higher for these groups.

To begin addressing the success gap, the school system invested in diversity training for its pedagogical staff.  But they soon discovered that their beleaguered approach needed to be reimagined.

 

Ineffective Training Methods Required an Innovative Approach

The school district mandated professional development courses on diversity for all its teachers.  The endeavor proved costly on a variety of fronts.  First, there was a significant investment for the curriculum and trainers.  Then, whenever teachers were required to be absent for their mandatory training, substitutes were necessary.  It wasn’t helpful for students who were already underperforming to have inconsistencies in their daily instruction.  Ultimately, with a limited amount of trainers available, it took a year to schedule all teachers to complete the course.

Additionally, the training didn’t reach every adult in the school’s ecosystem. Students don’t only interact with their teachers.  Other school employees such as paraprofessionals, school administrative staff, cafeteria workers, security personnel and bus drivers interact with students throughout their day so they too were in need of the same diversity training

In response to the challenges, the school district formed a C-level office, EOG (Eliminate Opportunity Gaps), in its central administration with a dedicated budget committed to raising the achievement level of all students while addressing and eliminating the equity gap. The EOG office sought out a more innovative approach to the professional development training problem and selected Cyborg Mobile to help solve it.

 

A Digital Learning Platform Solves the Time, Location, and Reach Challenges

 

Cyborg Mobile began by directing a discovery phase to locate and align existing school district equity collateral with open source material.  Using Agile methods, Cyborg Mobile corralled key personnel to meet and collaborate and as a result, was able to quickly identify the critical path and gain immediate traction in the project.  Cyborg Mobile Principal Kobie Hatcher said, “The collaborative effort we used to get the job done was not the norm for the district. Everyone tends to work in silos there and the effort to innovate and build in a quick amount of time was new to them.”

In less than two months, Cyborg Mobile presented its findings to a cross-department steering committee, which received them enthusiastically.  In response to the EOG’s delight with Cyborg Mobile’s fast pace, Program Manager Jennifer Rance said, “One of the biggest challenges that [Cyborg Mobile is] most effective at is moving very quickly to meet deliverables and produce results for the client.”

Fueled by the initial collaborative success, EOG then determined that they wanted a way to effectively distribute the content to thousands of school district employees, a much wider audience than it had ever dealt with previously. To meet the need, Cyborg Moble innovated a solution that resulted in a first-of-its-kind equity training application.

 

Designing an Engaging Learning Experience

The pilot program, named the EOG Digital Toolkit, is a fully mobile responsive web application designed by Cyborg Mobile. Now the training materials were easily accessible by each employee’s personal computer or mobile device at any time.

The training content was presented in short, easy to digest videos that were arranged into six modules which could be completed incrementally. The material is a blend of internal and open-source equity content covering six main areas:

  • Awareness: Sharing statistics that reveal the true equity gap among district students, and EOG’s goals for reducing the gap.
  • Caring: Revealing the findings from neuroscience of what it’s like to be cared for, along with tips and practical advice to create more positive relationships through caring.
  • Trust: Showing how to gain trust by displaying curiosity in students and treating all students equally.
  • Motivation: Bringing to light how raising expectations helps to raise the bar for students in the classroom.
  • Beliefs: Unmasking some of the unfounded beliefs about what causes equity gaps in the nation’s school districts.
  • Implicit Bias: Discussing the unconscious shortcuts in our brains that lead to quick judgments about race.

 

Each module contains practical tips on how to address these themes to create more equity balance throughout the school system, YouTube-standard videos that discuss important subject matters, and a section for users to write their thoughts on the issues in journal fashion.

Checkpoints were also built into the user experience (such as quizzes and on-screen prompts) to ensure optimal assimilation of the materials as participants progressed through the modules.  Also built into the software interface is the ability to track who received the training so that future data correlation and feeder pattern tracking could be used to establish benchmarks and determine longterm success.

 

Measuring the Success of the Early Phase Roll Out

When addressing equality in education issues, it can realistically take several years to generate significant data which will allow the school system to truly determine how today’s initiatives have impacted on a large scale.  But there are several ways in which the digital learning platform Cyborg Mobile created has already begun to prove successful in the short term.

The pilot program, named the EOG Digital Toolkit, was initially presented to a group of 32 educators and staff to explore and test by the end of the school year.

First, the teaching staff completed their training in just six weeks, rather than taking the entire school year.  The platform eliminates the need for hiring instructors and substitute teachers.  Better still, now the entire ecosystem of adult pedagogical and administrative staff have access to the training.

The trained staff have already begun to use their training to contribute to a more positive learning environment.  One educator summed up many sentiments by saying, “I have always wanted to make a difference in regards to EOG. I have never really known what role I could take, but after seeing the toolkit, I feel like I literally have tools to start making a difference right now.”

Capitalizing on the success of the pilot and experiencing the early benefits of reaching a diverse audience, EOG ordered a full implementation of its new Toolkit. Cyborg Mobile delivered the full EOG Digital Toolkit in five weeks, prior to the start of the following school year.

 

Further Reaching Applications

  • The toolkit Cyborg Mobile designed, developed and implemented was a first-of-its-kind in many aspects. It took traditional professional development and introduced it to an interactive, online, mobile responsive experience.  It also made training more widely available and shortened training time frames while reducing the staff’s time away from their main work.

Cyborg Mobile’s ability to create digital content and learning management tools can be applied to support Diversity Inclusion Projects in other educational districts. Furthermore, this technology can support other types of training in corporate or non-profit environments, such as those that tackle Sexual Harassment or Gender Bias training.

Cyborg Mobile’s expertise is not only bringing the technology solution to the table but in helping the organization rally their resources and ensure that the goals they’ve set out are achieved in record time. We help entire ecosystems and communities to understand the same information and start using the same language.  

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