“The single most-needed classroom item.” That’s what teachers called tech materials in our 2016 Tech in the Classroom report, and it’s more true now than ever. In the 21st century, technology skills are vital. But technology can be expensive, and public schools across the country are struggling to stay up-to-date when facing budget cuts.Since 2000, public school teachers have used DonorsChoose to fund over 290,000 requests for classroom technology, from tablets to headphones and everything in between. Like all DonorsChoose projects, every one of those requests was reviewed by one of our volunteer teacher screeners before going live on our site. Sometimes, they tell us about a request that really stands out — a shining star. We call these requests “A+ projects.” Last Spring, our partners at PwC funded A+ technology projects, to the delight of teachers across the country. After the event, we asked our Data Science intern, Robbie, to analyze all of these amazing projects to and pull out lessons that other teachers can use to make their own A+ request. Teachers, try using these tips next time you set out to write a technology project to help your essay resonate with our community of donors.
Show how technology will level the playing field
Many A+ technology projects highlighted how the requested devices would help teachers level the playing field for their students. Mrs. Smith, who requested tablets, wrote about how the project will help her students with disabilities express themselves. She explains that “some of [her] students have motor skill limitations that make it difficult to use a mouse and keyboard.” Using the tablets, “they will be able to use the touchscreen in place of a mouse while working on their computer interventions.”Other teachers talked about how their project will narrow the gap between students who have access to technology at home and those who don’t. Ms. Ahlstrom in Idaho notes that “the only access most students have to technology is their parent's cell phone.” She’s using technology to “provide as many hands-on learning experiences for them as possible.”Tip #1: Next time you go to create a classroom project request for technology, try calling out the impact technology can have to make sure every student has an equal shot at a great education.
Share how the project will help students focus
Another common theme from the A+ project essays was to talk about how technology can help students focus. Ms. Hart’s students that might sound familiar to other teachers: those “who struggle with concentrating on their independent work.” For her students, the problem was that they were “consistently distracted by the noises around them.” Her solution? An MP3 player tuned to the local classical music station, which “helps them to focus and complete their work.”Tip #2: If your students have trouble focusing, try mentioning this in your project essay, and write about how you can use technology to solve that problem.
Point to opportunities for individualized learning
Our last piece of advice for writing an A+ technology essay is to highlight technology’s ability to tailor the learning experience to each individual student. Ms. Mattison used her essay to share why here students are unique, writing “No two children are the same, therefore they do not learn the same.” She requested digital whiteboards to “custom tailor each child’s education” and “personalize [her] classroom.”Tip #3: Try calling out the ways you’ll use technology to individualize your lessons (and check out these other examples of teachers who use blended learning in the classroom!)Excited to write your next A+ project essay?