5 Steps for Building & Strengthening Students’ Networks

Step 4. Leverage Edtech that Connects: Bringing New Relationships Within Reach for Students

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Guiding questions:

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Without the data—and the tools to collect and analyze the data—how can we measure the impact of expanded networks for our students?”


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    Technology has a competitive advantage when it comes to diversifying weak ties.

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    Technology can address gaps in access.

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    Multimodal online connections made possible through technology platforms can increase empathy and authenticity.

We created an app because we simply couldn’t afford not to. We believe that a high-tech, high-touch solution is the key to achieving social impact at scale.”


If you’re working to ensure safety and privacy first → Follow background check guidelines and ensure tools are designed to protect personally identifiable information:

If you’re just starting to use technology to forge connections → Target connections otherwise out of reach:

If you’re aiming to build affinity groups among and on behalf of students → Explore technologies designed to expand access to individuals who share students’ identities and interests:

If you’re trying to connect students' local resources more efficiently→ Consider tools that organize local connections beyond spreadsheets or directories:

If you’re offering experiential, project-based learning → Integrate virtual experts to offer inspiration, project examples, and feedback:

  • Cajon Valley Union School District’s “Meet-a-Pro” model uses technology to bring local and global professional connections into the classroom.

    Cajon Valley Union School District is a public school district that provides K–12 students with career-related learning. Guided by its World of Work curriculum, students have numerous opportunities to Meet-a-Pro, in which students engage in virtual tours, field trips, and industry chats with working professionals. To scale Meet-a-Pro, the school district uses a tool called Nepris, which ports virtual volunteer industry experts working around the world into classrooms. But Cajon Valley also taps networks in its own backyard. The District has populated Nepris with local connections, including both district employees that work in its central offices and family networks across the district. For more on the Cajon Valley approach, check out our Cajon Valley case study.

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    Evidence of impact
    Sample data collection strategy
  • iCouldBe fosters secure online connections that, in turn, help students expand their offline networks.

    iCouldBe brings online mentors from all career backgrounds into high school classrooms where 50-100% of students live at or below the poverty line. The platform is deeply focused on secure, virtual interactions. Mentees and mentors can share information to build a relationship, but can’t share personally identifiable information—any information that would allow mentees and mentors to connect physically or virtually outside of the program where no supervision is possible. To overcome the inability of mentees to share photographs, Instagram pages, etc., functionality on the site allows mentors and mentees to create custom avatars and participate with their mentor one-on-one in curricular activities that become highly personalized based on each mentee’s unique personal, academic, and career interests, and post-secondary goals. iCouldBe is enhancing its “connections map” component on its platform where students can visualize their networks on an ongoing basis. (Notably, the students iCouldBe serves prefer the term “connections” to “networks”). While completing the online quests, the map is automatically populated as students identify real-world connections to strengthen, such as those with teachers, coaches, and counselors, and develop new connections with people they would like to meet. Students are asked to fill out a form identifying what types of support these connections can offer and how frequently they connect with these individuals. The connections map will have multiple filters that allow students to see connections with shared career interests and different ways they know people (for example through iCouldBe, family, school, community, internships, etc.). Read more here.

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    Evidence of impact
    Sample data collection strategy

Download our guided worksheet to keep track of your progress while going through the playbook.

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