Jonathan Latko thinks children need to start playing with technology at a younger age.
“You can see it in little kids, they don’t know the barriers,” said Latko, an adjunct professor in the Fox School of Business. “They’re not afraid to make mistakes … so we need to get that technology in their hands at a younger age.”
Latko spends most of his week as the assistant director of Temple’s Computer Recycling Center, a nearly self-funded department that aims not only to cut down on waste, but also to use Temple’s resources to help the community.
The CRC has donated refurbished computer equipment for about 10 years, but the department recently decided to refocus the donation process through a new program called Temple Tech for Philly.
This initiative was designed to find schools and organizations that would benefit the most from a donation. The CRC’s current campaign focuses on the Philadelphia School District, particularly the Tanner G. Duckrey School at 15th and Diamond streets. Last year, Temple Tech worked on improving the Free Library of Philadelphia’s technology system.
Temple has been giving technology to the Duckrey School since 2006, when the CRC set up a computer lab there.
“I was given a job to get rid of all this junk, and nobody wanted the job, is the reality of it,” Latko said. “So I developed it into an entire department. … I’m trying to come up with creative, unique ways to use our excess resources—human capital, equipment capital—into the communities around us that have need.”
The CRC spruced up Duckrey with nearly 60 old computers from the TECH Center, split up among 20 classrooms, as well as flat-screen TVs and projectors.
Now, through the new campaign process, Duckrey School was able to apply for a new full computer lab, complete with 35 to 40 computers, tables and chairs.
“If it’s a donated machine from Temple, most likely the user might not have an opportunity to use the technology that we have,” said David Bui, a 2016 engineering technology alumnus and student worker at the CRC. “This gives them a chance to actually use this technology.”
Josh Gerloff, the technology teacher at Duckrey School, said computers are an integral part of education at the school—students use computer programs like Khan Academy and Reading Eggs during class.
“These kids will do anything if it’s on a computer,” he said. “There’s a direct correlation between how they use those programs and their math and reading scores going up throughout the year.”
“These kids learn so much more, so much quicker when they’re using something that they like,” Gerloff added.
In addition to being used during school hours, Gerloff said the new computer lab will be available for after-school use by students and their families to search for jobs, write resumes, find doctors and more.
“What you realize is, there are a ton of socioeconomic challenges within North Philadelphia and I think, personally, the digital age is a flattener,” Latko said. “It can knock a lot of those barriers out if we can first bring the technology to these groups.”
Erin Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.