Image via Fresno State

published on November 22, 2019 - 1:45 PM
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A team of educators and students at Fresno State are working to bring tech literacy and knowledge about some of the world’s latest digital innovations to campuses and classrooms across the Valley — and they’re not doing it alone.

According to Orlando Leon, Fresno State’s chief information officer, the project is part of the Technology Services department at Fresno State. The main goal, he explained, was to identify the gaps in tech learning and literacy in the region and bring the learning and experience to them. This resulted in the Hub of Digital Transformation.

He elaborated further by stating that 80% of Fresno State graduates stay in the Valley and that this could be a major component of contributing digitally savvy employees to the local workforce.

“So as our students get these experiences, they’re of course getting noticed by other technology companies nationally, which is great,” Leon said. “But also a lot of them — the 80% that end up staying — they can really use this experience… to hopefully grow in their time here.”

Max Tsai, coordinator of digital transformation and innovation architect at Fresno State, says the main mission of the Hub is not simply to solve the problem of tech illiteracy, but to create a culture of innovation in the region, particularly in underserved communities.

As an example of the situation they’re dealing with, Tsai explained that his daughter is in a Clovis Unified school where she and all her friends have or know how to use such devices as iPads and smartphones. However, 15 minutes away in Raisin City, many of these students are not so lucky.

“Fresno is a unique situation,” Tsai said. “It’s like when these students come, we can not just apply the same pedagogical tools like say, ‘we give you an iPad and let you figure it out.’ So we try to be a little bit focused on experience learning.”

To help them in their efforts, they’ve been able to partner up with Amazon who —among other things — has provided them with equipment to use in their lessons, demonstrations and outreach. And while they’ve made inroads with other tech giants such as Google and Microsoft, Leon said they’re relationship has been special, referring to it as a kind of “no strings attached” partnership. This has been especially helpful in teaching students about Cloud, or Amazon Drive, a data storage application. The ability to use Cloud has been an increasingly desired skill in the workplace, Leon added.

“Amazon has been a great partner because yes, they try to sell us things and try to ask us to use their products, but they’re also willing to send people out physically onto campus and meet us around the nation in just talking about partnerships,” Leon said.

It’s also been an eye-opening experience for Katrina Covarrubias, a communications student at Fresno State who deals with the hub’s public relations. According to her, she’s been able to not only witness and learn about tech herself, but has seen firsthand the results they’re now getting.

“I work with a lot of different students in our department [and] now they’re learning how to use all the robotics and artificial intelligence now and if we weren’t there — I’ve talked to a lot of them — they say there’s not really a lot of opportunities to start learning, like hands-on experience with this,” she said.

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