Digital Equity Champions for All Learners: How UnidosUS’ Padres Comprometidos Program Empowers Latino Parents with Digital Skills to Support Learners

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology website.

UnidosUS is the largest nonprofit Latino civil rights advocacy organization in the United States. As part of the organization’s commitment to student success, UnidosUS launched the Padres Comprometidos program to support Latino parents’ ability to navigate the public school system and empower them as advocates for their child’s education.

In a conversation with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, Jose Rodriguez, UnidosUS’ director of parent and community engagement, described the reality of the digital divide for Latino parents. Many parents and caregivers do not have the necessary technology to engage with the school system, and even among those that do, many do not understand how to fully leverage that technology to meet their needs. For example, Rodriguez explained that many parents might only have a mobile device to access the Internet, and they might not be familiar with e-mail systems and other digital tools.

In response, Rodriguez and his team built the Padres Comprometidos Ed Tech Program to help develop Latino parents’ understanding of how they can use technology to their advantage. UnidosUS developed resources and curricula that showcase how to use common digital platforms and learning management systems used by schools. By offering these resources in partnership with schools, districts, and local PTAs, the program enables parents to use digital tools to build stronger relationships with teachers and school leaders.

Rodriguez said, “I knew that most of the [platforms] had the same features — they had a microphone that you could mute and unmute, they had a camera that you could turn on and turn off, they had a chat [function], and they had the raise your hand feature. So…I started creating lessons, which became our materials for the PC Ed Tech curriculum.” According to independent evaluations, the program has consistently increased Latino parents’ engagement with teachers and school administrators. Additionally, students whose parents were in the program were more likely to be involved in extracurricular activities, and after the program, parents were found to spend more time at the school and play a “larger role in preparing their child for college”.

Rodriguez said that his personal experiences with linguistic discrimination shaped his perspective on barriers that immigrant parents face when engaging with their child’s education. “I’m constantly thinking about the parents and thinking about the families and the caregivers and how to get them the material in a language or in a format that is comprehensible to them,” he said.

Additionally, Rodriguez spoke about UnidosUS’ Digital Skills for Life program, a workforce development initiative that teaches in-demand skills. In partnership with Google, UnidosUS implements this 5-week, cohort-based program, which teaches adult learners – including many parents – fundamental digital skills, such as basic computer software and hardware knowledge, web navigation, and digital communications. Rodriguez discussed how the program unlocks opportunities for parents in many aspects of their daily lives, saying, “Digital Skills for Life is helping the parents connect with…doctors, it is helping them do online banking, it is helping them by preparing them for the 21st century.”

The Padres Comprometidos and Digital Skills for Life programs demonstrate how digital access and skill-building opportunities can support parents from underserved communities to navigate the public school system and empower them to become advocates for their child’s education. By providing resources and training programs that showcase how to use educational technology platforms and leverage digital tools, leaders can help build stronger relationships between parents/caregivers and schools and support families in meeting their holistic needs, which can have long-term benefits for students.