Americorps plans $2.2 million in tech projects

The Corporation for National Service plans to spend some $2,225,000 to support information technology initiatives through its Americorps programs in selected cities.

The Americorps National Technology Initiative is designed to increase access to information technologies in schools in federally designated empowerment zones. The goal will be to move the selected schools into the top 15 percent of public schools in classroom use of IT and digital resources.

In the first year of the initiative, Americorps will target the top six empowerment zones: the Mississippi Delta; Oakland, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Detroit; Los Angeles; and the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. A coalition of empowerment-zone leaders, education and technology specialists and national partners called NextDay will lead the effort to develop high-tech school clusters in 16 communities: 10 urban, three rural and three enterprise empowerment zones. Each cluster will consist of an elementary school and a junior or middle school that feeds into a high school.

The model schools will acquire and install current technologies, prepare their teachers to use and teach the technologies and incorporate those technologies into the schools' curricula. Americorps members will help schools by integrating digital information directives and resources into the academic curricula, preparing the teachers to use the new resources, assisting teachers and students to establish digital training programs and supporting the NextDay specialists at the sites, said Adin Miller, program officer at Americorps' National Direct Unit.

At each targeted empowerment zone, NextDay will place three individuals: a local coordinator in charge of ensuring that goals are being met and responsible for partnering schools with an institution of higher education; an education integration specialist; and a technology support specialist.

NextDay's partners in the project include: Cisco Systems Inc., which will provide access to its Networking Academy/Network Administrator School; 3M Corp., which will provide almost $2 million in fiber-optic cables and also will offer technical support; AT& T Corp., which will provide online teacher training through its Virtual Academy; and the University of California at Berkeley, which will serve as the lead institution of the higher education partners.

Applications for the project must be received by Sept. 9. Any nonprofit organization whose mission, membership, activities or constituencies have a national scope -- and who includes Americorps activities in more than one state -- is eligible.

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