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ATPM 3.07
July 1997


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MacAdemia Nuts & Bolts

by Belinda Wagner,

Want a New Apple For Teacher?

Most of us who are no longer in school make resolutions only at the start of a New Year. Educators, students and parents of students have a second round of soul-searching and resolution-making: during the summer months. PTA Boards around the country are hashing out their 1997-98 budgets. By the time school begins, the ink will be dry. Teachers and parents may be less than ecstatic with the relative priorities of such educational tools as a new playground versus at least one computer per classroom.

I don’t know how the school budgets of all our loyal ATPM readers are negotiated, but the process at my daughter’s school is scary. Our PTA Board is zealously dedicated to raising over $20,000 for a new, state of the art playground during 1997-98. This was a shocking revelation after listening to our Media Coordinator endure the Board’s Inquisition about how the 1996-97 PTA monies (about 1/2 the amount planned for the playground) were utilized. My expectations for the 1997-98 expenditure discussions are fairly dismal at this moment.

I often feel like a “lone voice in the wilderness” when I attend the PTA Board meetings. Many of the other Board member parent are exasperated that the School district keeps buying Macs when their children have PCs and Windows 95 at home. Most use Wintel boxes at work and are entirely convinced that their children are learning an archaic and useless computer system at school. How can they help their children when the school’s computers don’t have the same operating system as their home computers? Aren’t the members of the Media & Technology committee aware that companies like Dell and Compaq are giving computers away to schools that merely call and ask?

I have on at least three occasions explained patiently that any work a student does on a PC can be read into a Macintosh at school. If shuttling of files between school and home is necessary, the student can save their work on an IBM-formatted disk.... Well, you know the spiel. I certainly don’t need to repeat it here and preach to the converted.

As for the computer giveaways, well of course they’re giving them away. They want a piece of the education market that Apple dominates. These Wintel-loving parents are blissfully unaware of the immense sums of money their employers sock into technical support. I counter with the numbers (courtesy of Evangelista sources) and then hit them with this question, “Are you willing to vote for another property tax increase to pay for the upkeep of this wonderful Wintel network you’d like to enforce?” I’ll leave it for your imagination to fill in the most common answer.

These parents conveniently forget just how many times they’ve reinstalled Win95, how many hours it took to copy Win95 to that huge pile of disks they had to purchase separately from that wonderful “bargain” machine that decorates some hardwood surface in their home, and other bouts with annoying glitches. After being forced to work with Windows NT over the last few months, I’m beginning to suspect that Mr. Gates has embedded subliminal hypnotic memory erasers in the light pulses that emanate from those monitors. After a lengthy NT session, it always takes an hour or so on my Mac to feel oriented again. And I don’t even play that Windows Solitaire...

So, all fund-raising activities this year will be siphoned off towards playground equipment. We worked so hard last year to train all the teachers on the Internet. A few have gone the extra mile and are very excited about using HyperStudio, Claris Home Page and other multimedia applications to enhance their curriculums. How deflating it will be for some to hear the dreaded judgment, “Sorry, but we need to buy this $4000 slide. Your idea will just have to wait until next year.”

Gil Amelio’s departure from Apple Computer was ill-timed for the education community. More negative speculation about the company’s longevity is not going to provide credible back-up to those teachers and parents who are lobbying to purchase more Macs for classrooms and computer labs. All the more reason to read on....

Before the tone of this column gets too morose, let us remember that Macs are the most personal of computers! The Mac community is plucky, resilient, creative (because we get to actually accomplish things with our computers). That PTA Board made a grave error this year. I’m just a tad more than peeved with their overall condescending, short-sighted attitude.

What’s the best revenge? My answer to that rhetorical question is, “Funding.” OK, I’m a scientist. I live and die by grants and manuscripts. Consider for a moment, how many of you would choose to pay full college tuition for your children if someone were willing to foot all or part of the bill? Well, I’m here to tell you that there is money out there for educational projects. People are willing to give schools, teachers, parent groups the funds to make their dreams a reality. All you have to do is ask. Nicely.

”Asking nicely.” Is that a more comfortable than “Grant application?” OK, from now on, that’s what I’ll call it.

The first steps are figuring out what questions you’d like to ask. Teachers, what are you thinking about for the fall? What ideas are you hatching to engage the imaginations and energies of your students? Parents, what aspects of technology excite your kids? What would they really love to do that would foster teamwork and shared learning?

Write down those thoughts. It doesn’t matter at this point whether the ideas are fully developed. We’re brainstorming at this point.

Now, what resources are at hand? Computers in the classroom? Lab? Is there an Internet connection needed? Does an adequate one exist? What software is the best for the project? Is it available? Is there one particular teacher with some knowledge or experience that is related to the project, or is there a team of teachers and/or parents? Let’s not forget local businesses and other educational/cultural institutions, might they be interested in helping with expertise or donating time/equipment?

Again, the list doesn’t have to be fully-formed or comprehensive. It’s a toolbox.

Now, the next step is to get a list of potential money sources. This is where a lot of people go glassy-eyed. But, never fear! The Web is your ally here!

There are literally thousands of sites out there. Believe me, I’ve “hung ten” on this subject until my toes have become numb. To save you from “wipe out,” I’ll point you to just one Web site. Seriously, one.

Kathy Schrock is a librarian. One of our readers asked me not to forget librarians in this column, so here is one tribute. This woman has put together the most comprehensive, easy to navigate, informative site about this subject that I’ve ever seen. Her URLs all end in .htm, so I suspect she’s a Windows user, but nonetheless, she’s has provided a marvelous service to all you ATPM readers who are spurred into “asking nicely.”

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators:

The grants section is found on page:

So, you’ve got your ideas and your list of funding sources. Now what? Well, the best way to describe this part of the process is a “courtship.” You may have to modify some of your ideas to “fit” the goals and objectives of the foundations and agencies who are doling out the dollars. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. If you can get a list of “nicely asked questions” that received money in the recent past, that’s really helpful. The titles alone will yield lots of clues to what the group likes to fund.

Now comes the easy part - writing. Don’t be intimidated. The people who make these decisions are just like you and I. They want to “spend” their money wisely. They want to accomplish some objectives. Most of them have kids (or nieces/nephews or grandkids) of various ages and can identify with your situations. Just write like you’re having a conversation with them. Tell them what you want to do, why it’s important, and how you’ll “measure” your success to report back to them.

Hmmm...measure your success, report back...what does this mean? Well, think of it this way. Your kid, or a neighbor’s proposes to take care of your yard during the summer for a price. What if you were out of town the entire summer? Would you want to give them money for a job if you couldn’t find out if they were actually doing what they promised? What kind of reassurance would you need? Well, one way would be for an independent neighbor to take photos on predetermined dates and send them to you. The same information could be provided by phone, or fax. Maybe you’d want the opinions of two or three different neighbors.

It’s the same thing with agencies that give you money to a question “nicely asked.” They want to get some feedback about the success or failure of your idea. So, it’s important to explain how you will evaluate your progress. The methods should be acceptable to most people and be suited for communicating over a distance. The best reporting methods are those which are accomplished right along with the meat of the project, a web page for example. Maybe you’ll create a new course and package it for others to use. The possibilities are endless.

Go forth, ask nicely, and may you win freedom from the tyranny of PTA Boards and District Offices want to foist incompatible operating systems on hard-working educators and students. I’m behind you all the way.

Please e-mail me with questions, etc. I’ll be happy to help as much as I can. Maybe we can have a special ATPM Page O’ Grants this year!

[apple graphic] “MacAdemia Nuts & Bolts” is ©1997 Belinda J. Wagner,

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