ellohay! West Michigan

Naming, structure, goals, objectives and strategy

Posted in organization, planning, strategy, writing by forgr on May 18, 2008

I’ll be taking a break from posting about meetings and new concepts here for a bit to focus independently on naming, structure, goals, objectives and strategy.

If I get a chance to post here, I will (I greatly value your comments and strong opinions).

On another note, our Fundable drive is at 37%, if you’ve been meaning to contribute, but haven’t had a chance yet, the last day to meet our goal of $240 is exactly 7 days 1 hours 43 min. 40 sec. away. What can just $10 do for this project? Read here.

Thank you, everyone, for your support, and I’ll talk to you soon when I emerge from writing.

Marie-Claire Camp

Digital Inclusion in Grand Rapids, MI Project
(616) 446-3622
forgr.wordpress.com
groups.google.com/group/forgr

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A Conversation with Dan Balfour

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Dan Balfour, professor in the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration and a faculty fellow of the Honors College at Grand Valley State University.

We discussed the organization, the program offering and our plan to run a pilot program in a GR public school classroom. We also talked about grant seeking classes offered at the SPNA at GVSU and how volunteer work is required in the curriculum at the SNPA (think “grant-writing”, or “research-assistance” for this project… yeah).

Biggest moment of the conversation:

Marie-Claire: “So, if there was one thing that would be a grave mistake if I didn’t do during this process, if there was one piece of advice you might give to me, what would that be?”

Dan: “Don’t stop”

Thank you so for your time, advice, and resources Dan. It was great meeting you, and I hope to talk to you again soon.

A Conversation with Andy Wolber

Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Andy Wolber from NPower Michigan. Andy is the Executive Director of NPower Michigan. Their mission:

We provide technology services to nonprofits in Michigan, ensuring that all organizations have access to the best technology resources and know-how and can apply these tools to help create healthy, vibrant, thriving communities

We talked for about 45 minutes. High level notes:

• Team up with Macatawa Media Center in Holland, they have a earn-a-laptop program (CARE) and would definitely be a good source of information

• Check out One Economy (I did, very interesting indeed)

• Make the Community Media Center in Grand Rapids a fiduciary parent

• Take a cue from the United Way, they work with many non-profit organizations, they are a good model

• Call NuSoft Solutions, they should be interested in teaming up in some way

• Engage college students with the project

• Work with job skill training centers

He was a great source of knowledge, and has been a very generous individual. He’s also emailed be several reports, introduced me to Barb Pyle at Macatawa Media Center, and has been kind enough to allow me to write about him here in our blog.

Thank you for your contacts, advice and contributions Andy. I hope to talk to you again soon.

Calculators

Posted in education, programs, Uncategorized by forgr on May 12, 2008

Out of curiosity, I recently attended a Grand Rapids School Board Meeting. I came in a little late, so I sat in the back.

I listened to each item on the agenda, watched while the group took a time to acknowledge Cinco de Mayo, and enjoyed hearing from several community members express their views on various items of concern.

I noticed a specific focus on tools and preparation for MEAP, SATs and ACTs from more than a few board members. Getting good scores on state and national tests are obviously a concern for this group, and in many cases, they are a major concern. Good score on MEAP determine a lot of things for a school and a school district e.g. total school scores, additional funding, overall school bill of health.

Students are allowed to use calculators on all three of these tests (MEAP, SATs and ACTs), they are encouraged to use them in fact. Scores are consistently higher when students use calculators. But in many cases, students can’t afford to buy calculators to use on these tests.

Scientific calculators currently run anywhere between $50-$100 depending on the features, but most households in Grand Rapids, MI can’t afford an extra cost like that. Many households are struggling to pay bills and get their children fed, clothed and off to school each morning.

There was one school board member that made the plea to individuals watching that evening to consider purchasing a calculator for $50 and donating it to the school district. She mentioned that she was potentially going to start a calculator drive herself.

I don’t have statistics to determine how many students are without calculators, but the fact that it was brought up during a school board meeting, means it’s a bit of a problem. Our students are under-served and cannot compete without the correct tools.

So, hey, calculators are helpful technological devices, who’s to say that earning-a-calculator isn’t a pretty good program to include in our future organization?

2 hours of community service = a new scientific calculator

What do we think? Cool, weird, good?

‘Laptops for Sixth Graders?’

This is a great article to come across while surfing… I’m actually glad that it was written. I need to hear this kind of stuff.

Take a minute to read an excerpt from this article written back in 2004 titled ‘Laptops for Sixth Graders?’ about a grant offered through Michigan’s Freedom to Learn initiative (FTL), which allocates $68 million for school districts to lease laptops to kids for up to four years:

Placing computers in classrooms is, of course, only the latest educational fad, designed to divert our attention from the real issue, which is what our children actually know once they leave school. Sure, technology is important and students will have to be able to work with computers to be successful in the workforces of today and tomorrow.

But computer skills can be learned without handing out personal computers. They are skills a good percentage of children already know and use on home computers by the time they are in the sixth grade. Bringing any child up to speed who has no computer at home should be a matter of selective targeting, maybe even by giving out a small number of personal computers.

But this should never be confused with measures aimed at improving student academic achievement, particularly when studies have failed to reveal any such relationship. This appears to be another program where money is being spent, simply “because we can.”

Read the entire article posted here on Apr. 6, 2004 by Jeff Steinport

Jeff Steinport is a computer network administrator for Advantage Sales & Marketing of Walker, Mich. and treasurer for the Grand Rapids Board of Education. Jeff is also a member of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority board.


Alright, so the challenge is to do what? Make sure that when we design this project, that it’s genuinely good, advantageous to be involved with, different. It shouldn’t stink up the place with poor planning, ill informed recommendations, or inappropriate goals.

The frustration is palpable in this article. It would be a terrible thing to evoke similar sentiments in our future clients.

I’m going to speculate (this is only a guess) of the potential downfalls of this program at this time:

• Potentially, the computers were leased, not donated
• Potentially, there was no curriculum in place to integrate the computer as an effective tool
• Potentially, there was no infrastructure for tech support
• Potentially, the training sessions for teachers, students, parents were not in depth enough, or of limited use
• Potentially, there were no clear goals for the introduction of these tools into this environment
• Potentially, students weren’t using them appropriately
• Potentially, they were intrusive in the classroom

If we’re going to do this right, we need to do some serious homework. We need to know needs, desires, concerns from all parties involved. Our goal should be to make this program as seamless as possible, useful, accessible, sustainable, measurable.

Here’s another article titled “Giving Laptops to Sixth Graders Won’t Improve Their Education

Here’s an article discussing why the “State laptop program [was] erased

And last, but not least, the infamous Freedom to Learn website

What other kinds of things would make a program like ours go sour? What could we go so wrong in our plan so far, that would make you as a potential client feel as frustrated as Jeff was?

A few next steps, growth

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

1.) Finalize project name

2.) Get feedback on mission statement, problem statements, finalize mission statement

3.) Post draft of Executive Statement, get feedback

4.) Write out plans for involvement with community partners

5.) Finalize and Print out finished Executive Statement, supporting diagrams and materials

6.) Start writing grants

7.) Schedule time to meet with Comprenew to discuss pilot program

8.) Schedule time to meet with WMCAT to discuss pilot program

9.) Schedule time to meet with Community Media Center to discuss pilot program

10.) Schedule time to meet with Grand Rapids Public School representatives to discuss pilot program

11.) Schedule time to meet with other important community partners

12.) Write memorandums of understanding for potential partnerships

13.) Breathe.

14.) Determine next steps again