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Digital Wish Makes Librarians’ Tech Dreams Come True - School Library Journal
Posted by Polly Davis at 01:48:00 AM Wed 01/07/2009
Originally published by School Library Journal on 1/6/09 Digital Wish Makes Librarians’ Tech Dreams Come True By SLJ Staff If you’re a librarian short on cash but in need of new technology, sign up on Digital Wish, a nonprofit online charity that helps educators modernize their classrooms with up-to-date resources that they ordinarily can’t afford. All K-12 media specialists in public schools are eligible to create a free wish list on the site and then describe how their students will benefit from it. Using Digital Wish's Class Locator, donors can find teachers or schools anywhere in the country. After receiving a cash donation, teachers "go shopping" for the technology they need, and Digital Wish will also donate 2 percent to 10 percent of every order back into a teacher’s shopping cart. "Librarians are often the force behind technological innovation in schools, and Digital Wish is a great site to help them gain access to technology when school budgets have dried up," says Spokeswoman Polly Davis. Teachers are also encouraged to spread the word by telling parents or community members about their need. Since its creation in July 2007, membership on Digital Wish has grown to more than 11,000 and the organization has given more than $50,000 in grants, most of which come from individual donations, says Davis. That number is expected to rise to $75,000 over the next few months. "It's increasingly difficult for schools to acquire the technology they need to prepare students for tomorrow's jobs in this economy," says Heather Chirtea, Digital Wish's founder. "Every day we hear about funding cuts, so Digital Wish provides a connection between donors and teachers, and every donor counts.”Digital Wish is also a social networking site, where educators can exchange ideas and tech-related lesson plans on a range of subjects, Davis says. Digital Wish is funded in part by the Draper Richards Foundation, which provides funds and business mentoring to nonprofit organizations. You can access the original article here: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6626473.html

Gadgets, Gratis: What's on Your Digital Wish List? - Edutopia
Posted by Jon Ketchum at 01:51:43 PM Mon 09/22/2008
Originally published on Edutopia Gadgets, Gratis: What's on Your Digital Wish List? A nonprofit organization puts tech gear, lesson plans, and other free stuff in teachers' hands. by Sara Ring When the public charity Digital Wish launched a resource site for teachers in July 2007, the company set out to register a thousand users by Christmas. It reached its goal in the first month. Since then, the site, which helps educators acquire technology via an online registry and provides other classroom resources free, has attracted some 8,000 users. "Teachers work really hard, and they really care about the curriculum, but they don't get the funding that they need to actually integrate technology," explains founder Heather Chirtea, who started Digital Wish when a grant program run by the Tool Factory and Olympus became overwhelmed by the volume of applications it received. "To be able to move to the nonprofit side, grant some of those wishes, and put some technology into classrooms is really fulfilling," she says. Every teacher who registers with Digital Wish creates a profile that includes personal interests, school information, and a wish list of products sold by the Vermont-based organization's partner vendors. Parents, corporate interests, or other donors may log in and purchase the items for the teacher, or they can contribute money into his or her account. Although other Web sites connect teachers to benefactors, Digital Wish offers many other services, including a social network, a digital lesson-plan library, and a host of grant opportunities. Edutopia talked with several teachers who use Digital Wish about how the site helps them acquire technology, enhance their course curriculum, and do their jobs more easily: Fundraisers Digital Wish offers a step-by-step guide to letter-writing campaigns that helps teachers call potential donors' attention to their online wish lists. It also provides creative fundraising ideas and flyer templates that administrators can edit to suit their school's needs. Fifth graders in Virginia Bower's special education class at Newfane Intermediate School, in Newfane, New York, used the templates to contact local businesses, several of which contributed to her Digital Wish account at the end of the 2007-08 school year. Bower looks forward to purchasing the items on her list, such as a USB flash drive, a battery-recharging system, and a map application. "During our social studies curriculum, we work a lot on mapping, and there's some great mapping software on the site," she says. All Digital Wish vendors provide rebates that put money back into teachers' accounts whenever they buy products. To keep teachers' costs down, Digital Wish provides schools that send out fundraising letters with postage, plus their first technology gift. After computer teacher Victoria Kozlek had her eighth-grade students at Southern Columbia Middle School, in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, write fundraising letters to local businesses, Digital Wish let her choose from dozens of software programs donated by its partner vendors. "They sent us podcasting software, which was wonderful," Kozlek reports. "I plan to incorporate it into my school publications/technology course." Lesson Plans Digital Wish maintains a national library of more than a hundred teacher-submitted lesson plans -- approved by a board of reviewers -- that users may search for by category or keyword. Also available for free download are the thousands of lesson plans teachers have posted on their personal pages. "You can add your own, or you can search the archives for lesson plans that other teachers have uploaded," explains Judith Miller, a science teacher for grades 7-8 at Chicago's Holden Elementary School. "I discovered a few plans I've used in teaching science that the kids have found interesting. Some were similar to things we're already doing, but they went a step or two further." Meanwhile, Kozlek has posted two lesson plans inspired by her eighth-grade yearbook class and has borrowed other teachers' curricula as well. She says she particularly liked a digital-storytelling project created by a peer in Chatham, New Jersey, that asked students to observe their surroundings by photographing local points of interest. "I adapted this lesson for my own classroom," Kozlek says. "Students took pictures of important landmarks at our school and then created a photography portfolio." Grants Posting a lesson plan on Digital Wish isn't a random act of kindness; it can reap benefits. Every month, the organization awards computers, gadgets, and software donated by vendors to the teachers who submitted the best lesson plans (as determined by its board of reviewers). Isabel Lee, a second-grade teacher at Elysian Heights Elementary School, in Los Angeles, submitted a lesson plan for using digital cameras to create still movies. The inventive project -- with the cheeky title Watch Out Spielberg, Lucas! -- earned her an Olympus FE-310 digital camera. "The kids were really excited when we got the camera," Lee recalls. "We had a field trip that following weekend, so we got to use it right away." The site also has links to dozens of outside grants, covering subjects from language translation to science and mathematics. Social Networking Just like Facebook, MySpace, and other social-networking sites, Digital Wish allows teachers to add other users as friends with whom they can share their thoughts and ideas. Some teachers connect to peers in their district, while others reach out to those further afield. Miller saw Kozlek profiled in a Digital Wish email update and felt an instant connection. Miller wrote to Kozlek through the site, and the two discovered they had a lot in common. "We have the same passion for the inclusion of technology in any classroom," Kozlek says. "Though we teach different curricula, we both understand the importance of including technology in our lessons." Book Reviews and More Digital Wish continues to expand its services. According to founder Heather Chirtea, by the end of 2008, users will have access to a shared book-review library, an online address book, and a rating system for lesson plans -- and the site will give monthly grant awards to teachers with the top-rated plans. Chirtea also notes that Digital Wish is in the middle of a major vendor and donor expansion, and staff members continue to involve users in development and direction of the Web site. "We spend a ton of time chatting online with some of our favorite teachers, talking to them about how things work and how things don't work on the site. We're constantly changing and revising it to make it all function," Chirtea says. Educators appreciate the support. "It's just a fantastic site," Kozlek notes. "With all the other social-networking sites that are out there, it's nice to know there's one that recognizes teachers." Sara Ring is a contributing writer for Edutopia.org. She lives in Los Angeles. This article originally published on 9/22/2008. You can access the original article here: http://www.edutopia.org/digital-wish-free-technology-donations

Get Free Tech Now By Writing Letters, More Awards Coming Up Soon
Posted by Heather Chirtea at 07:25:08 AM Tue 07/22/2008
This article appeared in the NCLB newsletter published by Eli Research.

If you don’t want to wait to be selected for an upcoming grant, Digital Wish is offering a free letter-writing software award. What’s the catch? Have your students petition a huge trust fund for more ed tech dollars to support Digital Wish.

If you’re looking for a different type of classroom tool, get your profile ready for these upcoming Digital Wish awards:

- Every month (September - June): Win a Digital Camera Grant or a Podcasting Grant.
- January & April: Land the grand prize: a Mobile Digital Camera Lab.
- January: Get a site license for the “Science Diagrams” or “Database” software.
- February: Earn a “Word Processor” site license.

Contact: Email Heather Chirtea with general questions and for more information on the letter writing campaign at heather@digitalwish.org.

Copyright 2007, Eli Research. Reproduced with permission. For subscription information, call (800) 874-9180.

December, 2007 – NCLB Newsletter
Posted by Heather Chirtea at 01:02:46 PM Mon 06/30/2008
Can’t Wait For Classroom Tech? Advertise Your Wishlist With Digital Donors! Use these inside tips to score a range of cool tools on DigitalWish.com. Bringing the 21st century to your classroom has never been easier — or more under your control. Whether you aim to excite learning with podcasting plans or modernize art class with digital imaging projects, you will find a new window of funding opportunity on the web at www.DigitalWish.com. There are two ways to win by registering your classroom and submitting tech-centered lesson plans to the website: 1) Become eligible for rotating monthly awards of software products that cover content areas from reading and math to movie making and painting, and 2) add a “wishlist” to your profile to attract additional donor attention anytime. Anyone who finds your profile can make an instant donation online of tech tools to fulfill your classroom needs. Keep reading to uncover the specific strategies that will help make sure your online efforts reap rewards. Tip #1: Log Hours Profiling Your Classroom The secret to winning these technology awards is beefing up your online “profile,” which is an easy-to-complete web template that allows judges — and potential benefactors — to get familiar with you, your students and your plans to incorporate technology in the classroom. Your profile is your application. The more creative and extensive you make your profile, the better chance you have of winning one of the monthly awards and attracting independent donors’ dollars, explains Heather Chirtea, fundraiser for Digital Wish and president of Tool Factory, which, together with Olympus, provides the software-based grants awarded on the website. Helpful: To view one of Chirtea’s current favorite profiles, click on “classroom locator” on the website’s top navigation bar, search for Southern Columbia Middle School and go to Victoria K.’s profile. Take tips from her efforts to make your own page stand out. Behind-the-scenes info: To swing the odds even more in your favor, be active on the site as much as possible, shares Chirtea. Site administrators track stats such as how often individual users log in and how many lesson plans they upload. What to do: Keep your activity rating high by using the site frequently, maintaining a current, robust profile and expanding your network of online “friends” who get linked to your page, Chirtea advises. While the Digital Wish website is just getting started, your competition is likely to grow quickly. News of the service is spreading rapidly by word of mouth. Since the late summer more than 5,000 teachers have registered on the site, says Chirtea, who was expecting only 1,000 users by Christmas. Tip #2: Write Lesson Plans Other Teachers Want To Steal Even more important to winning these tech tools is a unique lesson plan that catches other teachers’ attention. Every lesson plan on Digital Wish can be viewed, shared and rated by other educators. The more popular your lesson plan becomes with your peers, the more likely you are to win a grant, Chirtea says. Hints: Make sure you elaborate on your idea; lesson plans that are less than 100 words don’t make the cut, according to Chirtea. Make sure the lessons are relevant to your curriculum and demonstrate effective use of a specific technology (such as digital cameras) in the classroom, Chirtea adds. Additionally, judges look for projects that exhibit a high degree of student involvement; brainstorm ideas that involve the entire class in a variety of capacities for a group project, or where each student gets the opportunity to build their own project. (And, of course, be sure your submissions are free of grammatical and spelling errors and other typos.) Don’t: Avoid submitting ideas that are overdone; producing a school newspaper is one example of a project that’s too commonplace, Chirtea says. Instead, rise to the top with a novel — even community-conscious — idea. Example: One winning teacher proposed producing a calendar that featured the local wetlands, which the class then sold to the community, shares Chirtea. The funds the group raised went towards a wildlife cause. Tip #3: Take Advantage Of Networking Resources Don’t miss out on these additional benefits of getting involved with Digital Wish: - Check out the expanding library of free lesson plan ideas submitted by other teachers. - Search dozens of additional funding opportunities from a wide array of grantmakers, which are listed on the website as a free service to users. - Access fundraising resources: Print Digital Wish flyers to promote your wishlists with parents and in the community. Get additional solicitation ideas, such as info on how to run a letter-writing campaign. - Keep up with new technology offerings so you can add them to your wishlist; the program plans to expand shopping options to include more tools such as video cameras and digital whiteboards, Chirtea says. Sum up: Keep your students on the fast track to future success by filling your classroom with educational tech. Don’t get buried by thousands of other applications by vying only for traditional grants; get an edge by putting your classroom’s needs front and center on the web. Resources: Register and start building a profile: www.digitalwish.com/dw/digitalwish/register Review winning grant applications: www.toolfactory.com/olympus Contest; access the full grant awards calendar: www.digitalwish.com/dw/digitalwish/grants_sched. Copyright 2007, Eli Research. Reproduced with permission. For subscription information, call (800) 874-9180.

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