At some schools, it’s just accepted that COVID-19 will increase the digital divide and harm vulnerable students the most. Not BayTech.
Two years ago, Bay Area Technology School (BayTech), an East Oakland charter school made a big investment to bring in more computer-aided programs to help accelerate student learning. Talk about timely — when the pandemic hit and distance learning began, BayTech in-person classes shutdown on a Friday and that Monday online instruction was up and running.
Now, coming up on a year since that first shelter-in-place order, BayTech has been recognized for its “intentional ed-tech tactics” with an “EduJedi Gainer” award from The Learning Counsel.
Seth Feldman, BayTech’s Superintendent, pointed out that BayTech was the only Title I school (schools with the highest percentages of children from low-income families) recognized, most of the others were from “wealthy suburban schools with great means,” he said.
“They looked into us and said, ‘You are a model for personalized and individualized learning,” Feldman said. “Little ol’ BayTech, from East Oakland. It’s gratifying they understand what we’re trying to do, particularly our use of technology to improve literacy and numeracy in the middle and high school years.”
A recent example of BayTech’s innovative use of technology involves researchers from Sweden. Recently, BayTech school leaders met with researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of Tennessee to discuss expanding Lexplore (using artificial intelligence and eye tracking) to help solve the literacy crisis in Oakland, including beta testing their Spanish program.
Feldman said the predictive technology of Lexplore will allow BayTech staff to screen students to quickly determine their reading levels, as well as identify patterns of potential learning impairments, like dyslexia.
“Then we can work with parents and notify them that there may be an issue, and help them create a plan of action,” Feldman said.
Caitlin Emig, BayTech’s Chief of Staff, said the range of adaptive technology the school has to offer is an essential part of BayTech’s mission is to cater to each student’s individual learning needs.
“We’re assessing our students and working to understand not only where they’re at academically,” Emig said, “and also utilizing tools to find the learning differences — maybe a student is more of an audio or visual learner — so that they are processing and understanding the information to the best of their ability. This is allowing them to excel by really catering their education to their skills.”