TFA Overview Video

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Check out our new overview video at the Giving Library.

Technology For All was recently selected for inclusion in the Giving Library, a groundbreaking initiative that connects donors to nonprofit organizations through online video interviews. In these interviews, our President and CEO, Will Reed, talks about the history, mission, vision and programs of Technology For All.  The videos are now available on the Giving Library website for anyone wanting to view more information on our organization.

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Adam and the Cat

For an Autistic Child, TFA Class Sparks an Interest

Until now, Adam hadn’t been interested in the computer.  The 3rd grader with high functioning autism preferred to walk in patterns around the classroom instead of sitting at his desk.

But on this day, the instructor was having the kids work with game-making software.  The software uses a Children at the computersimple interface that lets students develop a basic computer game.  The children are learning about technology at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bastrop County (BGBC) program in Smithville in a partnership with Technology For All (TFA).

The day started out as normal with Adam’s sister, Connie*, taking him gently by the hand and leading him into the classroom.  Adam shuffled in the door and stood next to Connie as she sat at the computer, then he paced back and forth behind his sister’s chair as she worked on today’s lesson.

Then something unusual happened.  Something on the computer screen caught Adam’s interest and he sat down next to his sister.

“I thought Adam had missed class, because I didn’t see him walking around”, said John Dees, TFA Training Manager who was monitoring the TFA classes.

Adam sat down by his sister and together they worked hard to make characters move around the screen and make noises.  With some help from Connie, Adam typed some commands to make an animated cat move across the screen. He was captivated by the cat’s movements, changing a command to make the cat change direction.

When the class was over around 45 minutes later, Adam took some urging from his sister to leave the computer. He finally did, after their work on the software was saved for the next lesson.

Dees told Adam and Connie’s mom after class how her children had done. She was excited about Adam’s interest in the software, and proud of what Connie had learned as well. “I can’t believe what they did! That’s great,” she said, as she smiled and hugged her kids.

Dees said it was amazing what Adam, Connie and the other young students had done with the software.  Some students made “music videos” by adding songs to the animated character’s motions to make them dance.  Others created simple games, like moving a character through a maze.  But Dees was most excited by Adam’s sustained engagement with the software.

Children at computersAll the kids did great, but we’re especially excited about what Adam did and what it might mean for his potential.  Maybe we have a budding software professional.  At home, Adam uses a tablet to play games, but doesn’t have access to a computer except through school and now through the TFA program at BGBC. His mother said he does not usually show an interest in computers, but he did on that day and during the next couple of lessons.

The partnership between TFA and the BGBC resulted in a technology program that taught students Internet safety and security, digital photography, game software development, and tools useful for school work.

“TFA has helped the club become more effective users of technology through classes such as using the Internet safely, working with word processors, creating games, taking and editing photos and videos, and other related topics,” said Prentiss Collins, interim director of BGBC.

Every day we help children and adults gain the skills needed to thrive in today’s digital world.  Here’s how you can help.

*Not their real names.

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Tools of the Trade

TFA adopts a new client survey system

Word CloudHow do you measure mission?  In this age of accountability, it’s not enough for a nonprofit organization to just provide services, altruistic as they may be.  It’s necessary to demonstrate that the provided services are:

  • effective – accomplish the intended goals
  • efficient – have a reasonable cost per unit of service
  • impactful – improve the lives of clients and the communities in which they live

The mission of Technology For All (TFA) is to provide educational, economic and personal opportunities for low-income, underserved and vulnerable persons through the tools of technology.  We do this by providing computer access and training in low-income and underserved communities so that clients can achieve computer competencies that are essential for the new literacy of the 21st Century – competencies that are required for education and employment and for connecting to resources and to the community. So how do we measure our mission?

As of June 2014, we measure it with the aid of a new online client survey and case management system.

The tool is built upon CommunityOS, a case management and inter-organization collaboration tool from VisionLink. A majority of client data will be input by the client in pre- and post-course surveys.  Additional client data can later be added to existing client records.  The survey content was designed with the consultation of Dr. Jon Gant, of the Center for Digital Inclusion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The survey collects demographic data plus client evaluations of TFA services and client outcomes.Client fills out survey

The system will collect client demographics such as area of residence, age, race, income level, and highest level of education.  This data will be used to verify that we’re reaching our target audience: low-income, underserved and vulnerable populations.

Other data collected includes client evaluations of TFA services and client self-assessments of outcomes.  For example, the client is asked to self-assess how much their computer skills have increased as a result of the courses and how the courses have impacted their lives. The client will also have the opportunity to rate the course and the instructor.  Together, this data will combine to allow TFA to determine how effective our courses are, and to make adjustments, as necessary.  It will help us to determine client outcomes.

Combining the above data with other measures will allow us to estimate service efficiency and breadth of service.

Asked what he envisions for the new tool, President and CEO Will Reed said, “We’re pleased to have enhanced tools that will give us more and better data for monitoring and managing our training program. It will go a long way to helping us ensure that we’re serving our target population and that we’re doing so as efficiently as possible,  and moreover that we are effecting positive outcomes in the lives of our clients and in their communities.”

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Technology @ Boys and Girls Clubs

“Quiet on the set!” comes the call as the cameras start recording and the action starts. Kids from the Smithville after-school program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bastrop County, TX are recording videos about their experiences with the program as part of a “Great Futures Start Here” campaign.

The children, ranging from 3rd graders to Junior High, are learning digital videography and editing skills as part of technology courses taught by Technology For All in a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bastrop County. Along with digital videography, a TFA program specialist has taught courses on Internet Safety and Security, Social Media Safety, Digital Photography, and other technology-related topics.

“Our goal and desired outcome for the use of technology is that youth become more knowledgeable of how to use the Internet and technology safely with the hopes of increasing their academic capacity,” said Prentiss Collins, Interim Director of the club.

Casey Dees, a contract program specialist with TFA that has been working with the club, will help the children compile a 5-7 minute long video presentation. The presentation will be played at fundraising events and posted on the club’s website. A DVD version will be mailed out to donors and interested parties.

“The newly formed partnership with TFA has allowed us to plan and deliver a variety of enhancement activities,” said Collins. “These activities include digital media, game design/development, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS)/Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which will reinforce learning in topics such as reading, writing, geography, math, and science.”

Collins added “As we press forward we also have a common interest in the parents and caregivers of our youth. The plan is that we will offer them training courses that will develop and provide a strong foundation for digital literacy, academic support, and job skills.” Courses offered for parents will include topics such as email basics, time management, family budgets, resume writing/interviewing, and homework help.

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Super WiFi

WiFi TowerA team of Rice University students recently tested a new technology, “Super WiFi”, in Smithville, Texas, working with Technology For All Training Manager John Dees. The technology takes advantage of the unused analog TV broadcast channels to transmit Internet over a wider area than a standard WiFi signal.

The technology is being developed through a National Science Foundation grant to the university, and Technology For All is assisting with testing efforts in Houston and Smithville. “This is a really exciting innovation in the way people can get Internet,” said Dees.

The team of students, consisting of graduate and undergraduate students involved in Electrical Engineering studies, set up the Super WiFi system at the local high school football stadium bleachers. Using the stadium allowed the team to test the system without having to climb a water tower while getting the height needed to perform proper testing.

The Smithville ISD superintendent, Dr. Rock McNulty, paid the team a visit to see their work and ask questions. SISD is a TFA partner, working with the Houston-based organization on various technology projects and proposals. “This is exciting,” Dr. McNulty said, “We are happy to help.”

Smithville proved to be a good test site for the new technology, because of its rural area and availability of analog TV channels (called “white space”) to use. The team plans additional tests in the area, including a possible longer-term installation and test.

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