Sonoma County Office of Education

Teachable Moment: Bridging the Digital Divide

05/22/2020 - Jeff Valfer

In this Teachable Moment, Alternative Education Teacher Jeff Valfer explains how he and his colleagues bridged the digital divide with their students—with a little help from SCOE's ESS department.

When all Sonoma County Schools suddenly had to close their campuses in March for shelter-in-place, teachers didn’t have any chance to teach students how to use the technology that they would come to rely on for distance learning.

For Alternative Education Teacher Jeff Valfer, help came in the form of a training from SCOE’s Tech Innovation Specialist, Matt O’Donnell. Mr. O’Donnell taught the Alt Ed team about an online program called Whereby, which functions like a more secure version of Zoom.

Using this program, Mr. Valfer was able to reconnect with his students over video and use screen-sharing to help them learn how to use programs like Google Classroom.

“Matt hooked us up with these great tools,” said Jeff. “He’s an awesome dude.”

In addition to Whereby, the SCOE Alt Ed team has been relying heavily on the good relationships that they’d built before shelter-in-place in order to keep students motivated and connected. Mr. Valfer says the whole team has played a role in reaching out to students, their parents, their uncles or aunts if necessary—to keep kids coming to class and engaged.

“It’s all about relationships with our kids,” he said. “If there’s no relationship, there’s no buy-in, technology or otherwise.”