Access, Connectivity, and Opportunity for Students

A tech CEO’s reflections on his own personal passion for and readiness to enact digital transformation for learners in a time of uncertainty. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Louis Alterman

Academic excellence for any student begins with a simple, but powerful word: opportunity. For 10 million students in this country, educational opportunities are constrained because they don’t have access to devices for virtual learning or the connectivity needed to access virtual learning materials in real time.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic (and the ensuing need for widespread virtual learning, of course) has shone a bright light on this issue, I became aware of the need for change well before these rapid shifts to our educational models began.

‘They’re in urgent need of our help, and we can’t afford to fail this test.’

I’ve served for several years now on the board and was Chairman of the Board at The Ron Clark Academy, a non-profit middle school in Atlanta, GA known across the globe for innovative teaching methods and academic excellence.

I’ve also served for several years on the board of The Rackspace Foundation, a philanthropic group dedicated to supporting education and investing in students in the San Antonio, TX area. As a result of what I’ve been exposed to and learned with both non-profits, I’ve developed a deep, heartfelt passion for education – particularly for helping students who might have social disadvantages or just not have money in their family.

We’ve Got To Fix It

Now that many students are at home and expected to learn, those who have the least resources are falling even further behind. The “digital divide” is widening in our country. I’ve got three kids myself, and I can’t stand the thought of that. Plainly put, it’s a huge issue facing our country and we’ve got to fix it.

This passion for change was helpful when I assumed leadership of my company in late 2019. We are a leading provider of managed mobile technology services for the world’s largest airlines, retailers and transportation providers. We empower our clients to leverage the power of mobility and mobile devices to dramatically improve their businesses.

When COVID-19 forced America’s schools into rapid adoption of virtual learning, it dawned on me and our team that we had reached a nexus of background preparation and opportunity. We could serve an important societal need, improving the lives of kids across our nation, and it would help our business as well.

Doing It Right Is Complicated

What does that look like? We are partnering with school districts to put devices in the hands of the students who need them the most. It may sound simple, but doing it right is complicated. Preparing a device – everything from procuring the device and getting it configured to bundling it with the right accessories and software configurations to making sure it is ready to go ‘out-of-the-box’ – that is the easy part.

As educators are now beginning to see, once the technology is in the student’s hands, things can and will go wrong. Often there are connectivity issues, damage to screens and keyboards (especially with intensive full-time use), passwords need resetting, or a host of other problems may present themselves. The vast majority of schools just aren’t equipped to handle the volume or provide the specific expertise needed. We do it, however, every single day for the largest fortune 500 companies in the world. We do it at scale, and we’re prepared to help students when they need us the most.

‘As educators are now beginning to see, once the technology is in the student’s hands, things can and will go wrong.’

That’s why we provide a full service all year long for students, including weekends and evenings, where they can reach our best-in-class support if anything goes wrong with their device or they don’t understand how to use it. We keep them from falling further behind.

Think about being a parent having a student who’s missing a lesson or missing a test because their devices aren’t functioning as they’re supposed to. It’s a really bad thing. That’s why we need to be able to answer the phone right away. Our highly trained staff is ready to help students with a problem. We have expertise in all areas of mobility and all types of devices. We solve the problem about 95% of the time on the first phone call. If the problem can’t be solved over the phone (e.g. a cracked screen or similar hardware defect), we will get a working device in the hands of the student quickly and repair the old one.

Can’t Afford To Fail

Ultimately, our goal is to free educators up to do what they do best. Educators and administrators are best at teaching because that’s their passion. They don’t need to be distracted by attempting a large-scale deployment of and then ongoing management of thousands of devices in a distributed IT environment all across the city or county. There is help.

We’ve been able to make a difference with students in Michigan, in Georgia, and elsewhere. Our team partners with schools across the country to ensure that opportunity remains available to all of our children. They’re in urgent need of our help, and we can’t afford to fail this test.

Louis Alterman is President/CEO of Atlanta-based Stratix Corporation, a leading provider of managed mobile services that helps clients to plan, purchase, deploy, support, measure, report, and analyze mobile solutions. Connect with Louis right here.

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