While many dream of the day when all students will have computers in their homes, it's a reality today in many of Indiana's fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms.
Thanks to The Buddy Project, a state-sponsored program, selected schools across the state are able to provide families of fourth and fifth graders with a computer, modem, printer, and training in how to use them. The technology allows students to reinforce and extend skills learned at school and creates a new kind of connection between school and family.
"With e-mail, teachers let parents know instantly if a child had a good day or needs help. Even posting assignments electronically allows parents much greater involvement than sending work home with the child," says Candace Swanson, principal of Solon Robinson Elementary School in Crown Point, Indiana, a participant in The Buddy Project.
Solon Robinson teachers post discussion questions for parents to explore with their children and suggest ways that parents can reinforce learning at home. Students and parents can work together on activities like developing a spreadsheet for a monthly food budget. "The parents of my students now have much more say in how their children learn in my class and a better understanding of how I teach," says Carolyn Vertesch, a teacher and Buddy site coordinator.
Although the project is primarily intended to benefit children, its effects can be far-reaching. "One of the most exciting things is seeing parents enhance their own careers as they learn these new skills along with their children. I've seen it transform lives," says Nancy Miller, implementation manager for The Buddy Project.