STAR Schools Projects
• Barron/Hickey, • Forman, • Meadows, • Mendenhall Elementary Schools
The STAR Schools version of the Computers@Home program has enabled families to receive a home computer system as well as extra software and hands-on computer training. Also, M&A Technology donated printers for each of the families. This unique version of the Computers@Home program is offered to kindergarten through fifth grade students at Barron/Hickey, Forman, Meadows, and Mendenhall Elementary Schools. The program is available at no cost to the families, but does require them to attend an educational training session once a month from November 2002 to April 2003.
The program began at the campus levels by sending out applications to potential families. After the completed applications were turned in, the administrators and teachers at each of the 4 campuses selected 12 families. A total of 48 families participate in this version of the Computers@Home program. Each campus has one bilingual teacher that coordinates the program for his/her school along with the campus’ administrative team. View a streaming video clip of Cathy Taylor, principal of Mendenhall Elementary School along with her students and parents as they discuss the project.
The educational training sessions begin with dinner at 6:00 p.m. Many schools are able to receive donated meals or discounted prices for meals for the 12 families. During dinner, the families enjoy sitting and talking about how they are using their computers at home. The League of United Latin American Citizens has volunteered to send representatives to each campus to provide free childcare for the families so that they can give their full attention to the training session.
The Instructional Technology Department has worked directly with the campuses on this project. There are 4 Instructional Technology Specialist assigned to this project and they each work with one specific school. The Instructional Technology Specialists work together to evaluate software and create handouts, installation instructions, and user manuals for the families. Each Specialist is also responsible for copying and delivering all the materials and co-teaching at the training sessions of her specific campus. Since the majority of the 48 families are Spanish speaking, the bilingual teacher at each campus serves as a co-teacher and an interpreter.
The computers used in this program are surplus computers that belong to Plano ISD. The families sign a Letter of Understanding, which states that the families have rights to use these computers at home but the computers are still property of Plano ISD. Each computer is loaded with Windows 95 and uses the Star Office suite, which includes a word processing program, spreadsheet program, and presentation program. The additional software is given to families each time they attend one of the educational training sessions.
On the first night
of training, each family learned how to set up the computer and printer. Each
cord was color-coded and each family was able to set up their own computer.
After all the computers and printers were set up, the families turned on their
computer for the first time. The first part of the night’s lesson was
Once the screens were glowing and the computers were humming, all the families were quite eager to learn how to use it. Many families were unfamiliar with computer basics such as using a mouse and navigating through Windows. The second part of the lesson was teaching the families computer basics and the word processing program in Star Office. Each family was given a binder in which to keep their handouts organized. That night, the families took their computer home.
The Instructional Technology Department arranged for a ‘traveling lab’ to be set up at each campus on the day of the educational training sessions. This provided a way for the families to have hands-on learning during the session. The second lesson took place in December. The first part of the lesson was to teach the families how to use the Encyclopedia Britannica software. Each family was able to research assigned topics and find images relating to the topic. The second part of the lesson was to show the families the various Accessories that Windows offers such as the Calculator, WordPad, and Paint.
In January, the
families attended their third educational training session. This session was
highly energetic because the families received 3 pieces of software! The families
were given installation instructions and user manuals for each piece of software.
The first piece, “Let’s Start Learning,” is for ages 3 and higher. The families used their handouts to install the software and then took some time to play. The second piece, “The Playroom,” is for ages 3 and higher. After installing, they looked through their user manuals to learn how to play some of the games. “The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis” was the third piece. This game is for 3rd Grade and higher. Many of the older students were familiar with this piece and were very excited to have it!
Many of the families have children that range in age from infants to high school students. Our goal is to provide software that is educationally valid and will be beneficial to students of various ages and abilities. The students have reported that they are teaching many computer basics to their parents. The parents have reported that having a computer in their home provides a new way for the family to bond and learn together.
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