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School tech on the go

MOBILE PLATFORM—La Joya ISD’s new mobile tech lab brings ed tech and internet access to low-income students in rural areas.
MOBILE PLATFORM—La Joya ISD’s new mobile tech lab brings ed tech and internet access to low-income students in rural areas.

A custom-made mobile tech lab brings tech and internet access to the neighborhoods of low-income students in La Joya ISD (7,000 students) on Texas’ Mexican border.

“In our predominantly low socioeconomic level area, parents don’t have access to basic educational support at home,” says Clemencia Garza, the district’s instructional resources and technology director.  “They don’t necessarily have the means to get their children to local businesses and resources that have free internet.”

The lab, which cost more than $364,000 to build over six months, offers 12 laptops, 12 iPads and virtual reality headsets at 16 work stations. It also features two makerspace tables with Legos, bots, small drones and 3D printers. Students can also stay connected at displays in a covered space outside the lab.

The tech lab cycles between the neighborhoods surrounding three middle schools, four elementary schools and one comprehensive high school where 99 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. It parks after school in neighborhood hubs such as grocery store parking lots.

Teachers can reserve time in the vehicle for hands-on STEM activities. Parents have been invited to read free e-book tutorials with school librarians.