Boom in high-tech corporate giving to K-12 schools

K-12 education is the No. 1 giving priority for the top 100 technology companies, according to a new report that tracks the community activities of Silicon Valley corporations. And other technology companies around the country are expected to follow suit, allocating more time, resources, and money to equip the nation’s schools.

What’s behind the trend? A top technology executive told STFB that today’s high-tech grants maker is younger and more engaged in local education issues. Our interview with Aldus Corp. founder Paul Brainerd, page 2, will give you the inside scoop on how to use this knowledge to win top technology dollars.

Silicon Valley, named for the prevalence of technology-based companies near California’s Stanford University, includes corporations with K-12 grant programs such as Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple Computer. About 600 new companies crop up in the region each year, according to Philanthropy Journal Online.

The study shows that total giving in Silicon Valley by the 50 firms that track this portion of their giving rose from $29 million in 1994 to $49 million in 1997—a whopping 69 percent increase. When it comes to local giving, Silicon Valley firms target a surprising 24 percent of their contributions, $6 million, to K-12 education.

About 11 percent of the surveyed firms’ worldwide philanthropy goes to K-12 education (the report did not give include a worldwide total). That compares to the 4 percent companies nationwide give to elementary and secondary schools.

Schools far outpaced other giving areas such as housing, environmentalism/recycling, and health care. K-12 education even pulled ahead of higher education, long thought to be the favorite beneficiary of corporate technology donations.

Researchers from Stanford University surveyed Silicon Valley’s 100 largest companies to document the extent and nature of their involvement in the community for the Community Foundation of Silicon Valley report.

Lessons in K-12 technology giving

There’s good information in the Silicon Valley study that can help guide your fund raising strategy when approaching coporations for donations.

Silicon Valley companies are likely to favor partnerships with non-profit organizations and other corporations, and use more in-kind and product gifts than other corporations.

When approaching a technology corporation about gifts, think about asking for product, volunteer, or other in-kind contributions. The companies responding to the survey reported that nearly half (41 percent) of their total giving was in non-cash computer and office equipment.

Further, most of the firms reported having organized volunteer programs. The Silicon Valley study shows 71 percent in 1997 invested in volunteer time, up from 55 percent in 1994.

So take advantage of the trend by having company volunteers come in to your school to help out with wiring or teacher support and in-service training. You can later leverage the relationship to position your schools for a cash donation from the company.

Not giving enough?

The report contradicts critics of the technology industry, who’ve been saying it lags behind other corporate sectors in giving.

In fact, although the data so far have been scarce, recent surveys like the Silicon Valley report suggest that technology companies are generous when it comes to product and in-kind contributions.

The Conference Board found in 1996 that the computer and office-equipment industry allocated 2.6 percent of its U.S. pre-tax income to giving, a portion that is “well ahead of what industries are giving,” according to research associate Audris Tillman.

The other good news for schools looking for technology dollars is that computer companies are giving more than other kinds of corporations. According to the Silicon Valley study, the area’s firms not only give more of their pre-tax dollars but also more dollars per employee than non-technology companies do.

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A Quick Primer For Expert Searching On The World Wide Web

Technology & Learning, September 1998, p. 22

Technology & Learning’s guide on how to locate quality information on the web provides a good starting point for what can often be a tricky and frustrating process.

Here’s an overview and some definitions that relate to web searching:

  1. First, you should realize that the world wide web is anything but organized, and finding good information quickly is almost always a challenge.

  2. An “index” or “directory” is a list of web sites categorized by topic or area of interest — as in the categories listed on Yahoo’s web site at http://www.yahoo.com. These are good places to start since usually the best and most legitimate sites are listed there.

  3. “Search engines” refer to a huge database that finds web pages containing words you specify.

  4. “Meta–search engines” take your search terms and look up web pages from several different databases of web pages at the same time.

After you’ve completed your search and found a page that looks good, here are some guidelines to evaluate the quality of the site:

  1. The site’s main purpose should be to provide information.

  2. The site should reference external links.

  3. The author or sponsoring organization of the page should be clearly defined and include contact information such as mailing address, phone number, and E-mail address.

  4. The site should be current and indicate when it was last updated.

  5. If the site is scholarly or research-oriented, it should have clear and complete references such as footnotes, a bibliography, and acknowledgement of sources.

  6. The site should be user-friendly, clean, logical, and well-designed.
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“Electronic Recess” And Other Great Ideas That Encourage Students To Use Technology

T.H.E. Journal, August 1998, p. 60

The director of technology for Norfolk Academy, an independent school in Norfolk, Va., outlines several methods that have been successful in encouraging students to use technology.

During what the author calls “electronic recess,” students are encouraged to E-mail each other and surf the Internet outside of a dedicated classroom program. The author says this encourages students who normally are shy about using technology to become more confident by using simple E-mail and Internet programs.

Each of the school’s nearly 1,200 students have unlimited E-mail and Internet access through the school’s more than 300 networked computer workstations.

The school limits abuse of the Internet by incorporating an acceptable computer-use policy into its honor code. The school also maintains daily logs to track the names of students and the web sites they access.

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Good Posture And Other Simple Steps Can Reduce Students’ Risk Of Repetitive Stress Injuries

T.H.E. Journal, August 1998, p. 26

Expensive ergonomic chairs and fancy workstations are not the cure-all solution to staying injury-free while you sit in front of a computer. The author, a body movement and awareness specialist, says the key to keeping students and educators free from injury is to follow simple advice in three categories:

  1. Body awareness. Tune in to how your body sits in front of a computer, and how to sit with a posture that maximizes comfort and minimizes the chances for stress and injury (the author says you shouldn’t slump in your chair, but rather sit up straight, balancing the spinal column and head on the pelvis).

  2. Take breaks. A five-second break every 10 minutes of typing is helpful; every hour, take 5 to 10 minutes to stand up and move around.

  3. Workspace setup. Position items such as your books, papers, monitor, mouse and keyboard to maximize comfort, and alter setups according to the type of computer task.
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“Low Tech” Tools Help Inner-City Principal Make His School One Of The Best

Converge, September 1998, p. 43

An inner-city school principal in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has transformed his school into a model institution that consistently ranks at the top in the state of New York. The secret? Some very simple, “low-tech” software that lets the principal keep a close eye on all the goings-on at his school.

The principal is Irwin Kurz, and one tool he uses to manage his school is a simple DOS-based database program called “Professional File.” With this one piece of software, Kurz can elegantly track the names, attendance records, academic performance, and other vital statistics of his 1,300 students. His data is so good that Kurz can pick out students by name in the hallways of his school and rattle off compliments or encouragements based on a student’s record.

While some technology experts would call Kurz’s use of older DOS software “backwards,” his results prove that having the latest and most expensive technology isn’t always the answer. Most often, Kurz says, it’s the level of dedication to technology and the intelligent way it’s used that matter most.

Kurz also employs some basic phone technology to help manage his school. An autodialer calls the homes of students who are tardy or absent, and answering machines take messages from teachers who will be out for the day to ensure efficient scheduling of substitutes.

In addition, Kurz’s school provides plenty of student access to computers in its classrooms, computer labs, and library.

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Students Can Be Valuable Resource For Installing and Maintaining Technology

Technology & Learning, August 1998, p. 24

Schools have found that students can serve as a highly skilled resource to help schools manage their technology.

On the technical side, students have been particularly successful; here’s a sample of what children across the country are doing to help their schools:

  1. Troubleshoot malfunctioning computers and perform routine maintenance on others.

  2. Refurbish old equipment, replacing outdated parts, even building new computers from scratch.

  3. Develop training manuals to teach others how to use software and hardware.

  4. Clean and dust computers, printers, and monitors.

  5. Rewire classrooms with network cabling and install network hubs.

  6. Install new software and upgrade existing programs.

  7. Help with server maintenance, including broken disk drives, forgotten passwords, and lost data.

  8. Program and maintain school web sites.

  9. Conduct research on the Internet to assist teachers, as well as set up distance learning applications with other schools and government agencies.

  10. Provide training for others at the school, including fellow students, teachers, administrators, and community members.
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Striking “Balance” With School Technology At Core Of State Officials’ Conference

Education Week, August 5, 1998, p. 23

Education technology was a hot topic at a recent annual meeting of the Education Commission of the States (ECS), where 530 state officials and legislators gathered in Portland, Ore., to discuss a variety of school-related issues.

One debate centered on balancing computer and online education with more hands-on approaches. Another speaker at the meeting said the real challenge facing schools is to ensure that sound educational goals and objectives exist beyond technology plans, and that technology initiatives should grow out of such educational missions.

Several state governors and business executives talked about education technology in a closed-door session meant to encourage candor.

At the meeting’s first State Innovation Awards, Oregon received recognition for its Students Recycling Used Technology program in which students repair and upgrade old computers—putting 8,000 computers worth $5.2 million back into Oregon’s classrooms.

ECS, a nonprofit group based in Denver that helps states develop sound education policies, in the coming year will offer states custom seminars on designing new technology initiatives.

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Eliminate Extra Costs And Hassles With Integrated School Communications Systems

School Planning and Management, July 1998, p. 48

Having installed advanced computer and communications systems, many schools are trying to integrate as many of these systems as possible.

Schools now use packages that roll phones, intercom and public address systems, master clocks, and fire and security systems into one product managed through a single vendor.

Such systems are easy to manage and allow affordable scaling and upgrades when a school or campus grows.

Schools and districts are also beginning to install system-wide media retrieval systems that can work with already-installed integrated communications systems. While the media retrieval systems are pricey — upwards of $100,000 — they do allow for central and controlled management of media resources. This is a popular feature with many media services coordinators.

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Four Methods To Deliver Safe And Worthwhile Internet Content To Your Students

School Planning and Management, July 1998, p. 35

Two challenges face educators who bring the Internet into classrooms: ensuring that students can find quality content, and protecting them against harmful or inappropriate material.

Terry Hitchcock identifies and evaluates the pros and cons of four popular methods to help meet these challenges:

  1. Acceptable Use Policies: Good because students can have unfettered access to the Internet and are entrusted to use their own good judgment. Bad because such policies require enforcement, cannot prevent accidental viewings of inappropriate material, and don’t locate quality material.

  2. Voluntary Self-Rating Systems: Good because students have broad Internet access, and the system is easy to set up. Bad because a voluntary system means that many inappropriate sites won’t have been rated, and hence can be accessed by students.

  3. Blocking/Filtering: Good because most harmful sites can be blocked. Bad because some filtering software can be difficult to maintain, can be fooled by graphics or unorthodox spellings, and can inadvertently block relevant sites.

  4. “Inclusion Solutions” (web sites that link to pre-screened content a reviewer has deemed unobjectionable and of high quality): Good because students access only reviewed and approved materials and save time. Bad because students aren’t entrusted with full access to the Internet.

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Computer Mobility Is Payoff Of Wireless Network Technologies

School Planning and Management, July 1998, p. 17

Wireless computer networks offer schools a big advantage over hardwired network technology: mobility.

Portable computers on a wireless network can be moved around a classroom without having to remain “tethered” to an actual network cable. This technology provides greater flexibility and mobility for students and classroom activities.

The article’s author, who is a marketing manager for a major provider of wireless laptop solutions to K-12 education, says that infrared (IR) technology is the leading type of wireless technology. The other popular wireless technology uses radio waves, which are susceptible to interference or blockages from certain kinds of building materials.

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