A Winning Proposition: SmartSchools PC Day
A Smart Idea
Because computers are so expensive, many schools are left behind when it comes to the latest technologies. Big business is helping to change that picture with an ingenious partnership.
When Silicon Valley went through difficult fiscal times several years ago, there was limited money to finance schools, let alone pay for technology in the classroom. That's when corporations hooked up with state government and schools to find a solution. SmartSchools PC Day is supported by over 70 corporations. "We see a real distinction between computer literacy versus the kind of skills students will need to function in a global environment," says David Katz of sponsor corporation 3Com. "For our company to succeed in the future, we need employees who have high-level technological skills. We want to help schools understand the critical importance of these skills."
Not Just a Handout
Corporations supporting PC Day aren't simply dispensing freebies. Each grant involves rigorous application criteria, and schools must be wired and ready to demonstrate their commitment. Teachers are required to submit lesson plans explaining exactly how the technology will be integrated into their coursework -- and how they plan to evaluate the results. Last year's winning proposals swept across age groups and subjects, from vocational and special education to bilingual learning and the performing arts.
So far, so good. Yet statistics show that the average school district has less than one full-time coordinator for every 1000 computers. That's a fatal ratio for any successful technology program, and SmartSchools has tackled the problem head on. The solution? Tech-savvy parents and community members who provide volunteer support.
A Taste of the Future
Since the first SmartSchools PC Day in 1996, feedback from teachers shows increased participation from students, along with an enthusiastic volunteer commitment from the community. The entries for Spring 1998 were intriguing. Consider, for example, a proposal to integrate technology into a physical education course. Drawing on kids' natural interest in athletes and sporting events, it has kids using the Internet to perform research and produce written reports.
Students can compare training schedules and analyze sports statistics from other schools. They can determine how many Olympic athletes attended a particular college and what their workout regimes entailed. It's the new technology in action, connecting the physical, the cerebral, and the creative -- and it's a sign of things to come.
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