Fifteen English Language Learner (ELL) families recently earned a computer literacy certificate and refurbished computers through a unique program that partners the Whatcom Literacy Council, Bellingham Public Schools and computer refurbishing classes and companies. Since the inception of this program, nearly 50 families have received certificates and computers. Coordinated by Isabel Meaker through the Family Engagement department, the purpose of the program is to connect families to computers, technology and online educational resources, providing more tools at home to support student learning.
The Spring 2016 class is the third group of families who completed the computer literacy class. The pilot class ran in Spring 2015, with a class that followed in Fall 2015.
Katie Brown, ELL specialist, believes this is an incredible story to tell with powerful impact for those parents/guardians who went through the classes. “These parents feel more confident using technology now, which also helps them feel more connected to their children who are proficient technology users,’ she says.
“Prior to the class, many parents did not have an e-mail account, a computer or connection to the internet. With these new tools, they can now communicate with the school and their employers and support their student’s learning,” she continued.
The 10-week class trained parents in basic word processing skills and included some support in resume and letter writing for employment. Families and students can make use of these skills using the Microsoft Office suite of applications, pre-loaded on the laptops by volunteers and made available through the district license agreement and based on their child’s enrollment. With their new computer and connection to the internet, the families are now able to access online language learning sites such as DuoLingo and MangoLanguages which will help them acquire English skills in a digital, efficient format.
Aside from the computer literacy component, the hardware associated with this program comes from Project Connect, part of the district Project Free Education initiative, through which the district can provide computers to families in need.
Squalicum High School students, under the direction and instruction of CTE Teacher Kyle Ringo, have worked on refurbishing many of the computers, as well as assisting with distributing the laptops.
In addition, a local company Second Time Around provides need-based licenses for all the laptops and has licensed them through Microsoft to make sure all the recipients have valid operating systems.
“We feel a responsibility to reach out to our community,” says Robert Pratt, president of the company. “We are honored to give back and bless those in need.” Pratt says his company is on the board of Computer for Kids in Need and also supports this kind of work in numerous countries all over the world.
In addition to Second Time Around, special thanks go to the Whatcom Literacy Council for their coordination of this program and to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation that has generously provided funding to cover licensing costs required for preparing the laptops for distribution, as well as funds to kick-start a families’ Internet access through the Comcast Internet Essentials program.
This program is the confluence of many community partners and district staff working together.