Known as one of the world’s premier analog companies, National Semiconductor made grants to community organizations and education initiatives long before the creation of its foundation. Last August, the company got serious about giving with the establishment of a charitable foundation devoted to philanthropy.

The National Semiconductor Foundation supports its communities by honoring and rewarding teachers through technology, and its creation will help tie these efforts into one cohesive outreach. The foundation exists as a unique corporate charitable arm, in that it offers both “closed” and “open” awards programs, capitalizing on strategic partnerships and more general educational outreach.

The foundation gives its primary grants to educational organizations that it selects in conjunction with its various offices in the United States and around the world—including headquarters in Asia and Europe. This allows the foundation to target its funding to organizations that fit closely with its goals and guidelines. As Megan Buck, manager of community relations and education initiatives, explains, “This allows us to spend more time developing long-term, strategic partnerships to address education and critical community needs.” The Community Foundation of Silicon works with the foundation to distribute funding, after National’s site offices have selected grant recipients.

The foundation made its first award to such a partner through a $100,000 grant last year to Resource Area for Teachers Inc. (RAFT). RAFT is a nonprofit organization that coordinates the distribution of surplus computers and supplies from Silicon Valley companies and sells them to teachers at minimal cost for classroom use. In addition to this inaugural grant to RAFT, National Semiconductor donates most of its recycled computers to the organization, reaching more than half a million children in the Santa Clara area through RAFT’s 4,043 members.

Giving through volunteerism

In addition to its partnership grants, the National Semiconductor Foundation offers other giving programs. Its Partners in Education initiative donates the volunteer time and technical expertise of company employees to schools in California’s Bay Area.

For the 2000-01 school year, the program has featured 25 professional volunteers in the area, who collectively have volunteered about 600 hours of their time to date in classrooms. Each volunteer assists teachers and students weekly, and the company has partnered with the same schools through a NetDay initiative to give them access to the internet. Supplies and time donated so far have totaled approximately $100,000.

Networking classrooms for learning

The foundation also reaches out to schools through its ThinClient@School program. National’s thin-client devices function as displays networked to powerful servers, similar to PCs in some capabilities but with a lower margin of maintenance.

As Buck says, “We realized that these devices would be a good solution for the education market, because they lower the total cost of ownership. They are easier to maintain than personal computers, and they provide added reliability, security, and durability.”

Through its ThinClient@School program, National has donated thin-client devices and labs to schools worldwide and has created a guide and web site for schools that assist them with thin-client device implementation.

Teaching teachers

Another practically applied outreach program is the foundation’s Internet Training Initiative. Originally created in 1997 as a free, on-site training course for K-12 teachers in California, Texas, and Maine—home to National’s U.S. offices—the course was created to assist teachers in learning how to use the internet most effectively in their classrooms.

The 12-hour course is taught by current or former teachers, and it focuses on resources the web offers educators and students. National originated the course because “so much money in education budgets was being directed toward hardware and software purchases, and so little was being directed toward helping teachers learn to use those tools effectively in the classroom,” explains Buck.

The success of the Internet Training Initiative led National to collaborate with teachers and curriculum experts to create an online, self-taught version of the course, called Global Connections Online (http://www.nsglobalonline.com). Offered to teachers around the world as a free tool, the curriculum has lured more than 9,000 teachers to complete the course on the web.

Global Connections, also focused on effective use of the internet for teachers, is segmented into course modules that each take about 30 minutes to complete. Modules include “Safe Use of the Internet,” “Building a Web Page,” and “Effective Searching on the Web.” National has spent the past six months updating the course curriculum and adding new content. The course is accredited through the University of California at Santa Cruz, and teachers can apply for credit upon its completion. So far, the on-site and virtual courses have trained more than 14,000 teachers in all.

Rewarding innovators

Perhaps one of the foundation’s most exciting outreach programs is its broadest—the Internet Innovators Award (see this month’s Grant Opportunities). Through this competitive program, the foundation makes 14 grants of $10,000 to each winning teacher and $15,000 to $20,000 to each winner’s school.

According to Buck, the foundation created the program because “we feel that recognition and rewards are something that teachers seldom receive … By awarding teachers that are going above and beyond in the area of technology, we hope to give them an opportunity to be recognize—and we hope to highlight their winning projects as best practices for other educators.”

The program seeks teachers who use the internet in innovative ways to stimulate, inspire, and creatively teach students. The application process is entirely online (http://www.nsa wards.com), and all K-12 teachers in the United States are eligible to apply.

According to the foundation, an independent panel of award judges will consider the following criteria from applicants:

  • Good use of collaboration;
  • Use of a wide array of internet technologies for communication;
  • Collaboration and the construction of knowledge;
  • Cross-circular or interdisciplinary approach to teaching; and
  • Creative integration of features and functions of the internet into an existing curricular activity, resulting in an enhanced project and new student learning opportunities.
Past awards have been made for projects such as an elementary school communication project with schools around the country about weather conditions; an online “intergalactic” newspaper written in the year 2299; and an exploration of famous walls, such as the United States Vietnam Memorial and Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.

The application deadline is June 22. More information is available at http://www.nsawards.com/us/rubric.html

With its new foundation going strong, National Semiconductor intends to continue its community outreach programs, strategic partnerships, and other programs as it moves into the next century. For more information, visit the web address at the beginning of this feature.

National Semiconductor Foundation
2900 Semiconductor Drive
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090
contact: Megan Buck, Manager, Community
Relations and Education Initiatives
phone: (408) 721-2740
eMail: Megan.Buck@nsc.com
http://www.national.com/community/education.html