If you're reading this post, there's a good chance you are interested in online learning, or are already involved in an online degree program that requires educational technology of some kind. There's also a good chance that, when you were in 5th grade, a language-arts class on the computer would have sounded ridiculous to your sensible 9-year-old brain.
"Do you remember being in elementary school and opening a book to do your research for a class activity? Well now students, especially fifth graders, are required to use technology to research their selected topics."
It's not some excerpt from a futuristic novel - this is the introduction to a plea by a public-school teacher in Los Angeles. Ms. Acuna, who posted a request for two laptops on DonorsChoose.org, said the newest language arts requirements in her curriculum make the internet a mandatory component of their learning. The issue: Not all kids have access to it.
"The majority of my students have no access to any computer at home. The only time they have access to any computer or Internet outside of school is if they visit their local library or visit someone who does."
We decided to try and change that.
Here at Get Educated, we love to hear stories of online education -- which we advocate for all sorts of great reasons, like affordability, accessibility, and flexibility -- being integrated into K-12 classrooms. It's not only a way of preparing kids for a healthy ongoing relationship with the internet for research and communication; it's also a way of allowing students to take control of their education early in life.
That's why we opted to run a Donors Choose campaign focused on educational technology last month in our ongoing hunt for stellar online university reviews. In our usual promotion, we offer gift cards to Starbucks or Amazon.com for smart reviews of online colleges. Instead, we donated money to Ms. Acuna's 5th-grade classroom at Fernangeles Elementary School through February and March 2012. For each review posted on Get Educated, we sent $5 to this Title 1 public school in the Los Angeles school district for Ms. Acuna's language arts rotations. We wound up with a whopping $190 towards their project, which brought them 24 percent of the total price.
The school has 1,100 students, and parents tend to praise the school's teachers and leadership on web review sites, but overcrowding is an ongoing concern. Scrambling for educational technology resources is already tough in a crowded school. Adding to the urgency, the school district that encompasses Fernangeles Elementary, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, adopted curriculum changes that made computer use necessary in formerly book-dependent classes, like language arts, according to Ms. Acuna. The most common location for students to access an online course is at school, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Even if computers were in more homes, statistics show that 92% of students would access courses from school, and only 78% of students would log-in from home.
Early yesterday morning, Donors Choose fulfilled the order of two, black Toshiba Satellite laptops, with 15-inch displays and 4 GB of memory, to Ms. Acuna's classroom. The school was notified of the expected arrival date, and Ms. Acuna posted a thank-you to her donors. Here's what she wrote:
Dear Vicky Phillips, (et al.) I want to thank you for helping to fund my classroom project. With the addition of these two laptops to our classroom, my students will be able to work on research projects, the technology component of their language arts program, review necessary math concepts and so much more. This addition will immensely expand the skills that they will need to be successful in the coming grade levels and beyond. My students are beyond thrilled to know they will be able to use these lap tops. So once again thank you for your donations. It will make a great impact in our classroom. With gratitude, Ms. A
As she is thrilled, we are too. It wasn't just Get Educated's commitment to accessible online learning that made it possible. More than anything, we thank the students, faculty and staff who submitted reviews during February and March. Thank you sincerely, for all your hard work! If you have valuable insight on universities help us out with Online University Reviews. If you wish to donate directly to a program yourself, check out DonorsChoose.org. Interested in implementing online learning in your K-12 classroom? Start strong with the International Association for K-12 Online Learning
About the Author: Jess Wisloski is an established freelancer and has worked as a staff reporter at some of New York City's leading fast-turnaround publications including the New York Times, the Brooklyn Papers, and the New York Daily News.
Image Credit (in order of appearance):
Fernangeles Elementary School website