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Community Foundation tech grants awardees display impact

Five Harbor school districts discussed the powerful implications and impact of a school technology initiative by Grays Harbor Community Foundation two years ago, which awarded grants to them to fund technological needs in the classroom, at the Rotary Log Pavilion in Aberdeen Thursday night.

Their final reports have been “very encouraging,” said Jim Daley, GHCF’s Executive Director, who added that the grant is one of the larger grants the foundation has ever offered.

The five districts — Cosmopolis, Hoquiam, McCleary, Montesano and Ocosta — were awarded the grants, which totaled $130,000, in May 2012 after being selected from a pool of other applications from local districts. Their selection was based on letters of intent submitted to the organization. The districts have used the funds to upgrade technology, helping to buy electronic devices like iPads, mini iPads, and Apple TV for in-class instruction. They say the new technology has been useful in helping to narrow the achievement gap often seen between areas of high poverty and those with more financial means.

The voices of technology directors, superintendents, principals and teachers from the five districts were resoundingly positive as they outlined what they have been able to do with the funds over the past two years. Not only, has it improved student scores and helping them to meet state standards more quickly, but it has provided a necessary alternative way to communicate and learn for students with special needs.

“When a (child with special needs) can show you, ‘I know what the word means’ … That’s huge,” said Antha Holt, the Technology Director and a music teacher for the McCleary School District.

Chris Cady, a fifth-grade teacher at Cosmopolis Elementary, said his students are “retaining information more than they ever had,” and “meeting standard quicker” than they had prior to the arrival of 1 to 1 iPads for students in grades 2 through 6 due to the grant.

It is quite a change from when he first started seven years ago, he said, when the largest issue of technological concern was “all about getting land-lines in classrooms.”

He shared a how he recently was able to peak his classroom’s interest in their study of blues and gospel music by showing videos of musicians, including Ray Charles singing the National Anthem at the World Series game after 9/11.

“They went from being bored to saying ’ I want to know more about this, let’s find more,’” he said.

The schools all said they hope to include even more technology as opportunities present themselves and, as was a necessary part of their grant application, are continuously working and planning for the future in terms of replacing and updating their new technology by rigourous budget planning.

Daley said, as of Friday, the Foundation had begun to discuss the possibility that they will host another technology initiative that would be open to these schools as well as others.

A video documenting how the technology has been used effectively in each of the five districts was shown Thursday night and will soon be available for public viewing on the foundation’s website at www.gh-cf.org.

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