Two decades ago, many schools in rural Xinjiang lacked IT hardware. Schools that could actually afford the resources for hardware still struggled with the know-how on effectively utilizing them. Since 2012, the Esquel-Y.L. Yang Education Foundation has supported STEM education by introducing learning tools such as NXT, SCRATCH and App Inventor to train students and teachers in rural Xinjiang.
Understanding the digital divide and finding appropriate solutions, the Summer Learning Camp mobilizes university volunteers to harness technology for the benefit of the underprivileged. Through robotics or app programming software, university volunteers have helped hundreds of students in rural areas develop problem formulation and solving abilities through computational thinking.
The Foundation’s IT hardware donation and knowledge transfer initiative to the rural communities have proved to be a timely help amidst COVID-19, since the Xinjiang Summer Camp has had to move online. We also expanded the impacts to Vietnam rural areas by donating computers and organizing computation thinking workshops. With an app connecting students with their volunteer teachers, it is amazing to see children from different parts of rural Xinjiang having live interaction with their university volunteer teachers in Beijing with no less enthusiasm and fun. This new initiative has also opened up great opportunities for educational and cultural exchange in the future.