The prevalence of computers in modern society has led to a greater need for technology-based curricula and wired classrooms for students of all levels. Top online PhD programs are now available, but some primary schools don’t have a single computer. As a result, companies and organizations nationwide are providing under-funded classrooms with state-of-the-art, electronic educational implements. This philanthropic push has increased classroom performance and, in many cases, led to a higher rate of college attendance for children in these classrooms.
Since 1991, Computers for Classrooms has donated more than 50,000 computers to schools nationwide. The California-based program also advocates eco-friendliness by refurbishing donated computer systems to meet current educational standards instead of purchasing new units. CFC is, in effect, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the technology industry and reducing the amount of e-waste generated.
Educational software has evolved into an interactive experience for young minds. IBM, one of the top software firms in the world, recently developed the KidSmart Young Explorer computer. Specially designed for pre-kindergarten students, the software firm recently donated 10 units—valued at $26,000—to the Wake County School District in Raleigh, N.C. “[The computers have] been a wonderful asset to the classroom,” Wake County preschool teacher Monica Stokes told News 14 Carolina. “They touch on everything from early literacy, early math skills, sequencing, [and] categorizing.”
Though it was created primarily for recreational purposes, the iPad tablet is proving quite popular in classrooms. In February 2012, ecommerce company Clickstop donated $10,000—the cost of 20 new iPads with protective cases—to Tilford Elementary in Iowa. The school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) donated an additional 10 iPad tablets. The devices, used primarily for kindergarten and first grade students, were a hit with both school administrators and PTO members, who praised the devices’ portable size, kid-friendly interface, and wide range of education-based applications.
In addition to secondary education, organizations are striving to improve college preparedness and completion through technology-based curricula. In October 2010, Next Generation Learning Challenges was launched to provide American universities with the tools necessary to produce successful graduates. Since then, the effort has expanded to secondary schools. The program is led by nonprofit organization EDUCAUSE and the executive committee includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Past beneficiaries have included state universities, community colleges, and charter schools. Grant awards have generally fallen between $150,000–$750,000.
As new software is developed, donors are acclimating to current trends in order to provide schools with up-to-date technologies. In March 2012, U.S. Silica donated equipment valued at $8,000 to McKinley Elementary School in Ottawa. The donation included: MimeoTeach, a system that implements smart technology to white boards; MimeoView cameras, which capture multi-dimensional images and broadcast them on a screen; and three LCD projectors.
The need for tech-based philanthropy is recognized on a global level—and organizations are stepping in to fill that niche. Fundación Proacceso, headquartered in Mexico, provides online education to women and children living in that country’s poorer areas. Computers 4 Africa furthers education on the world’s poorest continent by supplying rural schools with electronic educational supplies. And in February 2012, the Loreto Vietnam Australia Program donated nearly $10,000 to facilitate construction of a computer lab at a Ho Chi Minh primary school.
Realistically, public schools—both in the U.S. and abroad—have a lot of catching up to do in technological capabilities. Thankfully, this concern has become a focal point of philanthropic aid. As more schools incorporate cutting-edge teaching methods into their classrooms, millions of children are given the means to compete on an academic level.
Sofia Rasmussen is a freelance writer.