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4J Wins National Award for Distance Learning Initiatives

District named Smart Cities North America Award winner for keeping students connected to learning during pandemic

Eugene School District 4J has won a national award for providing students with the wide-ranging technology and support they required to learn from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, IDC Government Insights named 4J one of two finalists in the education category for its fourth annual Smart Cities North America Awards. This week, the organization announced that 4J had won the award in the education category as determined by public voting.

The awards, given in 11 different categories, recognize U.S. municipalities that have implemented smart city projects—public initiatives that use technology and data-gathering to offer new services and economic opportunities and improve residents’ quality of life. Winners include cities, counties and universities, such as Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Harris County (TX), and Arizona State University.

IDC Government Insights recognized Eugene School District 4J, and in particular its Technology Department, for essentially outfitting students with a digital classroom at home when the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly closed Oregon school buildings on March 16, 2020. All 4J students learned remotely for a full year until March 2021, when students began to return to school buildings in a hybrid on-site/online learning model. Nearly one-third of families elected to have their students continue all-online learning through the end of the school year.

To keep students learning, the district’s technology team moved quickly to purchase more devices, distributed a laptop or tablet to each of 4J’s nearly 16,000 students, and implemented an additional web filtering platform to better protect students when using technology remotely. The team deployed the Zoom video conferencing platform and Canvas and Seesaw learning management systems, so students and educators could connect each school day and students could receive and complete assignments online.

The district also distributed nearly 800 mobile WiFi hotspots to students without internet connection and worked with an internet provider to provide free broadband access to low-income families, so they too could remain connected to their educators and peers. Safe internet hubs at school facilities were made available for the small number of students who could not gain internet access at home due to geography.

In addition, the technology team provided a tremendously increased amount of tech support for students, families and staff with a help desk available in English and Spanish via an online form, email and phone, as well as creating a myriad of how-to and troubleshooting guides to support self-help.

“The winners of our fourth annual SCNAA represent the most innovative and forward-thinking municipalities across North America, dedicated to making cities more livable and uncovering new ways to offer services and economic opportunities for all its citizens,” said Ruthbea Yesner, Vice President, IDC Government Insights and Smart Cities and Communities Strategies. “We are proud to shine a spotlight on these successful smart city initiatives and encourage the next generation of change makers for the greater good of our communities.”

Eugene School District 4J, along with the other award winners, will be honored at the Smart Cities Connect conference near Washington, D.C. in October.

More information:

Smart Cities North America Awards Winners
IDC Government Insights

4J Student Technology: Keep or Return?
4J Technology Support for Families

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