The Literacy Council receives $50K donation to buy iPads for Highlands students

Students from Kindergarten through 4th grade at Highlands School and The Literacy Council will soon have access to new iPads through a $50,000 gift to TLC from Art and Angela Williams, owners of Old Edwards Hospitality Group. TLC Executive Director Bonnie Potts announced the donation on Tuesday at Rotary Club of Highlands.

The idea to improve reading among elementary students at Highlands School began about a year ago when Potts approached OEI Sales Director Melissa Delany with statistics and data showing how literacy affects students, especially at an early age. After several more conversations throughout the year between Delany, Potts, and several others, a plan was set in motion to raise the money to purchase iPads for elementary students at Highlands School.

“We then talked about what ifs, what if the kids in 1st through 4th grade had new iPads, and how that might play into efficiencies in learning and access for the students and teachers to educational tools to take it a step further,” said Delany. “Mr. and Mrs. Williams are supporters of this community as we all know, but their belief in having access to learning and education is one of their biggest focuses. I had the information and the statistics and shared that with Williams, and they were happy to assist in this project.”

There will be 107 iPads ordered for students at Highlands School. Additionally, there will be 30 iPads ordered for The Literacy Council. Highlands High School students already have access to iPads in the classroom.

“We serve the same students and TLC exists to help students with education outside of the classroom,” said Potts. “After speaking to several teachers and conducting extensive research, I found that iPads are being used more and more frequently on a one-to-one basis in schools. iPads are incredible in a classroom for several reasons: they help develop fine motor skills, they aid in communication, and education can be customized to individual student needs.”

In addition to aforementioned benefits, Potts said using iPads in the classroom shows a dramatic increase in a student’s academic performance.

“Statistics show substantial improvements when comparing test scores to prior-year test scores, student test scores to norms, and student performance on pre- and post-test measures,” said Potts. “In fact, schools that implemented one-to-one iPads in the classrooms, on average Kindergarteners showed a 38% to 40% increase in reading proficiency.”

Potts added that The Literacy Council depends heavily on communication with teachers to customize students’ private tutoring, test preparation, and homework assistance and iPads will improve that communication.

“By having iPads available for the students and at The Literacy Council, teachers and tutors can communicate quickly and easily with one another to discuss student needs,” she said. “iPads make learning customized for individual students. Students thrive when they have different learning options. If a student is struggling with a subject, there are numerous apps (many in game form) that make learning fun and exciting.”

Potts said gifts like the donation from the Art and Angela make it possible to continue the mission of improving education outside of the classroom.

“We are incredibly grateful to Art and Angela Williams, and to Melissa and Richard Delany,” said Potts. “The Literacy Council and Highlands School are so extremely excited and humbled by this gift that will have such a positive impact on our students. We are so very thankful for their generosity.”

More improvements to come?

The purchase of iPads for elementary students initiated by The Literacy Council may signal the beginning of a push for improved technology across the board at Highlands School. This is where the Advanced Highlands Education Committee comes into the equation.

What is AHEC and how is it involved?

AHEC is made up of members of the community who have come together with the goal of raising private capital to improve the infrastructure at Highlands School, said AHEC Committee Member Hilary Wilkes in a released statement.

“Working alongside administration and faculty, the intent is to assist in funding the further development of resources to help the entire student body succeed and realize its fullest potential,” said Wilkes. “Dubbed the ‘Library Peeps,’ after prioritizing the initiative to expand the school Library, a.k.a. Media Center, the group also aims to strengthen technology materials needed by students and teachers.”

AHEC members heard of the donation and The Literacy Council’s plan to purchase iPads for elementary students and offered to help raise more money for the project. Enter the Swift Family Foundation that volunteered to donate $5,000 to AHEC to buy protective covers for the new iPads.

Originally, the plan was to purchase iPads for Kindergarten through 3rd grade, but after the donation by the Swift Family Foundation, The Literacy Council was able to stretch their grant and purchase iPads for the 4th grade as well because of the money saved by not having to buy covers.

Founding members of the AHEC include; Melissa Delaney, Stephanie McCall, Jody Pierson, Janice Raby, Jim Tate, Derek Taylor, Jeff Weller, and Hilary Wilkes.

“Advancing Highlands Education Committee is just that,” said Delany. “This group has been involved for a several months working with the community, the school administration, and the teachers of Highlands School directly to assist with specific needs that they have in the form of tools, resources, technology, and communication to provide funding for some of these necessary items that grant access to knowledge and learning that the library and teachers may not have at the moment.”

Wilkes said AHEC’s involvement in the iPad purchase is one of many projects on the horizon to improve the resources at Highlands School. Other projects in the works include having a one-to-one student iPad ratio for elementary students in grades 5th-8th; building a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) closet at school to store STEM research materials properly; and replacing the activity boards in classrooms to name a few.

Delany said that while there are several parties involved in this project, they are all separate entities working towards the same goal.

Pictured at the top of the article from left are Melissa Delany, OEI Sales Director; Bonnie Potts, Executive Director of The Literacy Council; and Richard Delany, OEI President and Managing Director at the weekly Rotary Club of Highlands meeting on Tuesday.

Article and photo by Brian O’Shea
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Research by The Literacy Council on the benefits of iPads in classrooms reported the following:

  • iPads can support seamless learning, allowing learners to easily switch learning contexts – from formal to informal or personal to social – and to take control of their own learning. For example, to supplement what they are learning in class in real-time through additional webbased inquiry, or by making digital notes.
  • The finger-driven iPad interface can motivate and engage students, keeping them interested in content for longer, and allowing groups to interact with the device at the same time and with the same object. This enhances and stimulates simultaneous opportunities for face-to-face social interaction in ways that desktop, laptop and even netbook computing with their mouse-driven screen, ‘individual’ peripherals, fixed location, weight and overall design do not.
  • Research suggests that the adoption and use of iPads in and beyond the classroom allows students to augment and enhance their learning in ways that were previously not possible or not so easy to do.
  • Teachers, students and parents report that the multiple communication features, routine availability and easy accessibility of iPads in the classroom and in students’ homes make communication between teachers and students, and school and home easier and more routine. (iPads in the Classroom, by Wilma Clark and Rosemary Luckin)

Additional reading statistics from the National Endowment for the Arts:

  • Reading skills correspond directly to one’s ability to…
    – be an informed citizen
    – communicate effectively
    – earn a higher salary
    – succeed in one’s chosen career, and
    – achieve personal fulfillment
  • Literary readers are:
    – 3 times as likely to attend a performing arts event
    – 4 times as likely to visit an art museum
    – 2 1/2 times as likely to do volunteer or charity work
    – 1 1/2 times as likely to attend sporting events, and
    – 1 1/2 times as likely to participate in sports activities.
  • Less than half (48%) of the adult [American] population now reads literature for pleasure. This decline in reading literature occurs across all ages, sexes and races. The decline is most pronounced among the young.
  • The percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period. Yet the amount they read for school or homework (15 or fewer pages daily for 62% of students) has stayed the same.
  • More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level – far below the level needed to earn a living wage.
  • 50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth-grade level book.
  • Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 – 4 times more likely to drop out in later years.
  • It is estimated that the cost of illiteracy to business and the taxpayer is $20 billion per year.
  • By the time they become college seniors, one in three students read nothing at all for pleasure in a given week.

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