Posted June 9, 2016

Temple Tech for Philly helps break the digital divide

The Computer Recycling Center is outfitting nearby Duckrey Elementary School with a new lab full of refurbished computers.

A boy and girl student working at a computer.
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
Temple’s Computer Recycling Center is installing a computer lab with top-of-the-line refurbished computers at Duckrey Elementary School, located at 15th and Diamond streets.

It’s third period, and the second-floor computer lab in North Philadelphia’s Duckrey Elementary School is filled with fifth-graders working on benchmark exams as technology teacher Josh Gerloff looks on. A few minutes into the class period, his phone rings. There’s an issue with a computer in a classroom on the other side of the school. Gerloff—who splits his time as a teacher and the school’s only computer technician—has to leave his class in the hands of a teaching assistant.

“I spend a lot of time taking these computers apart and putting them back together, trying to find the issue, using spare parts to make them work again,” Gerloff says. “When I got here six years ago, these computers were old; now they’re ancient.”

Temple Tech for Philly, a new outreach program developed by Temple’s Computer Recycling Center partners with schools like Duckrey to help bridge the digital divide by bringing technology to underserved communities.

This summer the program will install a new computer lab, complete with computer hardware and software, in the basement of Duckrey before school starts in September.

“Technology has the ability of being the great equalizer when we look at socioeconomic challenges in society,” said Jonathan Latko, assistant director of the Computer Recycling Center. “But when technology access is limited in certain populations, a digital divide opens up to exacerbate the issues that marginalized communities face.“

In addition to providing computers, the center worked to connect Duckrey with the College of Education, which serves as headquarter for the Philadelphia chapter of SteppingStone Academy, an organization that helps children who attend under-funded schools gain access academic support. SteppingStone will provide computer-based academic programs during the school year. Students from the Fox School of Business will provide technical support.

Students at Duckrey will use the computers for after-school programs, classroom assignments and testing.

“The new equipment will help expose our students to 21st century technology,” said David Cohen, Duckrey’s principal. “Our students take important tests and complete enrichment work on computers. Without current hardware and software, they will fall behind.”

Founded in 2003, Temple’s Computer Recycling Center is a nationally recognized and award-winning program that collects and refurbishes computers and electronic equipment from across the university and distributes no-cost, much-needed desktops, digital displays, laptops, monitors and servers to Philadelphia-area schools and community organizations.

Over the past three years, the center has donated more than 1,000 computers in areas most affected by the digital divide.

In an effort to expand its reach, the center established Temple Tech for Philly. Through that program, local community organizations can submit proposals for equipment and technology support.

This year, several organizations including St. Paul’s Baptist Church community center—located at 10th and Wallace streets—will receive computers to set up a full technology lab.