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Why Willmar needs the 'iCardinal Campaign'

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Education is "a changin." It is not a matter of "if" the tablets will appear in schools, but "when."

This question for me was raised this past summer when I heard two college presidents speak on the concern of student "readiness" for college. Many students graduating today have not had the tools in the classrooms to keep up with technology, current information, and the skills needed to learn "how to manage" my laptop or tablet when they arrive at their higher education campuses.

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To that point...As a parent of children that have gone through the Willmar School System I asked teacher Tyler Gehrking (who teaches at Willmar High School) about this technology and if Willmar had considered such a move. Other districts in our area have made bold moves for tablets and for the most part good results are being shown. Gehrking shared that Lyle Hovland and he have been working on a pilot project for two years and the funding at Willmar doesn't exist to move ahead with a model of 1:1 (i-Pad for each Student).

I invited some business colleagues to have a discussion with the high school's leadership team on the concept of what this pilot project looked like, how it was being used and could we get involved. After an amazing presentation from these passionate teachers, and many tough questions we asked about security, cyber bullying, costs, implementation, etc., we all walked away wanting more. Many of us felt we actually have a group of teachers and administrators that have tested this in real life classrooms, and are ready for this... but funding is the hurdle.

After more meetings, discussions, e-mails and more, a commitment was made by Superintendent Dr. Kjeergard, that if we could do community collaboration, he would match up to half of the costs for a High School 1:1 plan. Again, after more meetings, more members of the community joining our steering committee we decided we "must act" and find a way to "kick start" the district and get these tools in the hands of our students, and future employees and leaders of our community

Our goal to raise $400,000 from the community is well underway and we are asking the families, grandparents, businesses, service clubs and anyone who can help "change the way we fundamentally teach our kids".

With all donations going directly to the Willmar Area Community Foundation Technology Fund. This fund is dedicated solely to the Willmar School District's technology effort and the donations are all 100 percent tax deductible.

I hope members of the community trust the actions and decisions of volunteers and school officials to move ahead with this technology! If you have seen the many presentations given to the community at different service clubs or heard Hovland talk, you will hear the passion that many teachers have for this "one time call for action." In fact many teachers have personally donated already to this technology funding for iPads. Teachers who have received or will receive an iPad are learning on their own time ... not school time. They are committed!

In the next few days you will see another perspective right here from Hovland. He will share more of the "classroom possibilities" and how the students have reacted to date.

I am so proud of the Willmar District for producing amazing students, a solid school administration and teachers that truly want to change lives with our kids. Consider "adopting an i-Pad" or any donation you can give. This one-time ask is vital. The district has committed to sustaining this program in the future. We will see major paper and text book curriculum cost reductions as well.

Be informed on this initiative by going to the Willmar Area Foundation website www.communitygiving.org/willmar and click on the links to the technology fund collaboration. More information is available at our blog, icardinalcampaign.areavoices.com.

We hope to help you better understand the "why" we need to move now so each year our students are not being taught with outdated text books and tools while other students are racing ahead. It is a small investment when you think of the possibilities of helping students really prepare for the workforce and higher education.

Dave Baker is a Willmar business person and one of the organizers of the iCardinal Campaign.

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