nonprofit organizations in an effort to build coalitions that can effect positive change in the school systems. .
FROM PENCILS TO PCs
Michelle Williams isn’t your average third-grade teacher. In the past two years, she has written four grant proposals to procure additional teaching tools, not all of which are technology-focused. As far as Williams is concerned, the computer is just another of the many tools she uses to make learning more appealing to her students. “When you view the computer as a partner and incorporate it into the curriculum, it helps motivate students to learn,” she says.
One of Williams’ proposals, the 1996 Smart School PC Day grant, written in conjunction with two other teachers at Cesar Chavez, garnered the seven networked computers that now embellish her classroom. The grant was sponsored by a consortium of IT companies–including Logitech, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Intel and 3Com–which donated parts to build the computers. The sprightly 29-year-old teacher has been incorporating technology into her class plans ever since.
“When I do a lesson plan, I ask myself how I can use the computer to make things connect for the kids,” explains Williams, who admits it’s not easy coming up with exercises that pull language arts, science and technology together–although she manages. This year, the children are studying structures of life, which include the life cycle of plants and animals and their interconnectedness. To augment this learning experience, Williams has added a computer program called KidPix to the mix. The application allows the students to create animated slide shows of the life cycles, which they narrate and present to the class. Williams has also used the Internet to augment students’ library research, and plans to post their projects on a class Web site. She’s found that the immediate feedback students receive when using computers gives them a sense of accomplishment that is evident even when they aren’t using the technology.
“None of this would be possible without a lot of help from companies like Hewlett Packard and the Smart School PC Day sponsors,” says Williams. In fact, Hewlett Packard, which operates several K-12 programs in the Silicon Valley area, has recently adopted the school. Besides grants and hardware–the company recently supplied Cesar Chavez with $7,000 in printing equipment–it also provides human capital. “We’ve engaged several of our employee network groups to volunteer their time at schools throughout our region,” says Bonnie Flanagan, Hewlett Packard’s regional K-12 administrator. “We believe it’s important that we provide students with mentors who reflect their backgrounds.”
Williams’ class is currently participating in the company’s online mentor program, where students interact regularly via e-mail with employees around the country. “We wanted to make sure some of our K12 efforts were focused on the black community,” says Hazel Price, a Hewlett Packard human resources representative and former president of the company’s Black Employee Forum. Its members, along with the Asian and Latino employee groups, donate time and expertise at Cesar Chavez. Even with all of the support the company provides, there is always room for