Shrinking the Digital Divide

As more and more students gain access to personal devices, the exposure to personalized learning is becoming readily available to those lucky students who can lay claim to their own digital learning device. Of course, the parents and the schools that have the budget are able to provide students with the computers they need to excel and are moving ahead, while the gap between the “have” and the “have nots” continues to spread. This week, in the New York Times, No Rich Child Left Behind, explained that the most important indicator of success for students today is the level of family income. The families who can afford the 21st century tools enable their students to learn at their own pace and according to their own needs by purchasing the tools for them.

Enter CFY – a nonprofit organization that is determined to shrink the divide between the “have” and the “have nots.” Starting with middle schools in New York, CFY now provides direct service to over 100 high poverty schools in Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Elisabeth Stock, CEO and cofounder of CFY recognizes that all students need, not only access to technology and broadband internet at school and at home, but they also deserve to learn according to their own style! Because when students engage and get excited about the content, they tap into their sense of personal motivation and start to drive their own learning, which is the true the mission of CFY.

Still, CFY’s intention is not to simply hand students over a device and leave it up to the teachers, staff and parents to figure out how to use it most effectively. With Common Core standards in place and endless amount of digital content to sort through, adding devices to a classroom environment without support is, most likely, not going to lift student achievement. As a result, CFY developed to support these students, teachers and families in this digital learning age. is the home page for the students in the CFY program and basically their jumping off point to follow a personal path towards mastering the skills outlined in the Common Core Standards. is actually open to any educator, student or parent who is looking for this type of resource to customize student playlists and  focus learning paths. This platform not only curates free and freemium content on the web, but tightly tags it to the CCSS and organizes content by subject and grade level for teachers to discover and sequence into a playlist for each of their students. So now, instead of spending huge amounts of time scouring the web, searching for the best content for their students, teachers can easily connect their students with the subject matter that will reach them personally and ignite their inner motivation to learn.

Smitten with student playlists, continues to improve upon this model in order to ensure that students from every economic status recieve the same benefits of a great education. On the site, teachers can manage their classes, create learner profiles and track the progress of each of their students. PowerMyLearning furthers the ability of teachers to create their own personal digital learning activities for their students and link to their own created content. These personal learning playlists allow the time spent on devices to be student driven, keeping them curious, engaged and, most importantly, learning. Effective personal playlists change the classroom, freeing up the teacher for more small group and one to one instruction while the rest of the class uses technology to grow as independent learners.

CFY and believe in blended learning for ALL students. They strive to connect and support families, students and parents in this ever evolving technology learning environment.  This is not about adding shiny devices to make a classroom look modern. This is about connecting pedagogy, platform and execution.. proving that blended learning is able to turn around schools and provide students with new opportunities to succeed.


Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson is a Media Specialist at The Madeleine School.

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