Collaboration Provides Computers for Special Needs Children

<p><strong>Washington &mdash; Dec. 4</strong><br /> Local Head Start programs are receiving several IBM KidSmart Young Explorer computer learning centers to help children with disabilities and their classmates learn to use computers together. The Edward C. Mazique Center is receiving seven computers, Prince George&#39;s County Public Schools are receiving seven systems, and the Herring Run Head Start is receiving 6 systems. <br /> <br /> The grant is part of a nationwide donation expected to reach 20,000 children this year through IBM and PACER Center, a national organization for parents and professionals working with children with disabilities, such as autism, vision loss or other learning disabilities and physical impairments. </p><p>PACER is working with groups, including the National Head Start Association, to deploy the computer learning centers and train Head Start teachers and staff. A total of 600 computer learning systems are being donated across the nation to Head Start and other groups through PACER.<br /> <br /> "The latest donation of kid-friendly computer systems by IBM has helped us to offer a new dimension of learning opportunities in the area of promoting improved inclusion for our children with special needs," said Almeta R. Keys, M.Ed., executive director of the Edward C. Mazique<br /> Parent Child Center.<br /> <br /> "The National Head Start Association and PACER are natural partners, as we both believe that children must have the opportunity to succeed in this changing world," said Michael McGrady, interim executive director of the National Head Start Association (NHSA). "Head Start and NHSA are excited to work with PACER and IBM to bring computers and computer training to the Head Start classrooms. Our partnership will lead to our students being better prepared to excel in school."<br /> <br /> IBM&#39;s KidSmart program, now in its 10th year, includes the Young Explorer, a computer housed in brightly colored, kid-hardened Little Tikes furniture and equipped with award-winning educational software to help children learn and explore concepts in math, science and language.<br /> <br /> The computer centers can also help children learn important socialization skills such as how to work together and sharing. <br /> <br /> This year&#39;s global focus for KidSmart is to focus on the special needs of children with disabilities. Several accessible features, including scanning and closed captioning, are built into the options menu of the software to help make the program especially useful to children with disabilities. <br /> <br /> "This program uses technology, but it&#39;s not about technology. It&#39;s about effective early childhood education and learning," said Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and a former deputy chancellor of schools in New York City.<br /> <br /> The KidSmart program also includes teacher training material that is critical to the effective use of the computers, and the KidSmart Early Learning Web site that provides information for teachers and parents on early childhood learning and technology. </p><p>The computers will be used in conjunction with PACER&#39;s Project KITE (Kids Included through Technology are Enriched) program. Developed from a U.S. Department of Education grant, KITE uses a training model to prepare early childhood personnel and parents to use technology in the classroom to improve inclusion and educational outcomes of young children with disabilities.<br /> <br /> "It is one thing to give computers to children or learning centers, but we believe that it is equally critical to ensure that teachers and staff understand how to use it effectively in the classroom," said Albert Morales, IBM senior location executive for the Washington metro area. "IBM will also work with our partner PACER to lend IBM employee volunteers to make sure the teachers and staffs are trained."<br /> <br /> IBM developed the KidSmart program a decade ago to help reduce the digital divide, especially in urban areas, where it was becoming apparent that children from less affluent backgrounds could benefit from access to specialized technology tools and educational materials to better prepare them to enter school. Since then, more than 100,000 teachers have been trained on how to use the programs effectively in the classroom. IBM estimates that millions of children worldwide have used a Young Explorer. <br /> <br /> Based on the success of the program in the United States, IBM expanded the program to 60 countries around the world with tremendous success and translated the educational software into 30 languages. In several countries such as Vietnam, China, India and Jordan, it has become fully integrated into national education programs and has served as the model for teacher training.<br /> <br /> </p>

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