maintain them for a reasonable cost,” says BTG’s Bersoff. To offset the cost of computer repair, Ballou has also instituted a computer repair course, says school principal Jones, who is hopeful that his students will be able to repair computers from other area schools once the program is started. Still, there is the issue of paying for the telecommunications services the school needs to keep its three computer labs connected to the Internet. Fortunately, Ballou, with up to 90% of its students receiving free or reduced lunches, can qualify for the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, also known as e-rate.
Joseph Loeb is hoping that the e-rate will give him a helping hand in providing telecommunications services to schools and nonprofit organizations in South Central and West Los Angeles. “Most of the people in our communities just don’t see the advantage of using technology and it’s up to those who know to make it accessible to them,” says Loeb, founder and president of Break Away Technologies, a nonprofit organization that provides low-cost computer training and Internet access.
Located in a former warehouse, Break Away (www.breakaway.org) is funded primarily by AT&T, Pacific Telesis and the Strom Family Foundation. Loeb recently received a major grant ($525,000 over four years) from the California Wellness Foundation and also receives frequent software donations from Microsoft. The organization has over 100 Pentium computers, which it provides at a minimal charge to area residents and schools without enough computers. Once a week, students from New Roads School come to Break Away to use the computers to do everything from completing school projects to designing Web sites. Loeb also runs an after-school workshop in computer basics and entrepreneurship several days a week for about 20 students.
Recently, Loeb struck a long-term deal with Sony Corp. to receive nearly 2,000 computers over the next two years as the company revamps its computer systems. “I don’t want to just give away computers without empowering organizations to deploy, maintain and make the most of them,” adds Loeb, whose goal is to distribute the computers throughout South Central to churches, schools and other nonprofits to strengthen their technology infrastructure. He plans to bring organizations into his facility for training before setting up the network at their site.
There are similar efforts to link schools to technology all around the country, and many are working. Unfortunately, these are in the minority. Only 3% of U.S. schools have successfully integrated technology into the curriculum, putting our children at risk in the coming global economy. “Education is not so much to teach children to make a living, but to teach them to make a life,” noted William A. White, an 18th century politician. In the 21st century, that life will be increasingly digital.
Resources for schools and technology: Get your school connected!
Help from a technology committee at your child’s school.
A PTA tec
hnology committee can involve parent and teachers in the decisions that will affect your child’s education.
- Create a technology plan. Based on the needs that your PTA has identified, decide