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Apple announced today that its commitment to ConnectED has resulted in 32,145 students in underserved public schools gaining access to iPads for the 2016 school year, as well as Macs and iPads for more than 9,042 teachers.
Along with new computers, Apple's ConnectED program has helped 114 schools in 29 states across the country with ongoing support— including 4,434 hours of assistance from Professional Learning Specialists— and wireless networking upgrades that included 189 miles of internet cable infrastructure.
ConnectED is an initiative launched by U.S. President Obama in 2013 to encourage tech companies to help bolster America's most vulnerable and underserved schools. During his 2014 State Of the Union address, Obama noted Apple's $100 million commitment to the program.
"We're donating an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to every classroom," the company notes on its ConnectED site. "And we're implementing a process that provides planning, professional learning, and ongoing guidance so every school can experience the transformational power of technology."
Wirelessly ConnectED to the world
In working with new schools, Apple Project Engineers first "conduct a full survey of the school's existing wireless infrastructure and help install or upgrade a network" before sending new computing hardware. Apple says it deploys teams of about 20 people to build out each school's wireless network.
The company then works with local staff to show how to make the most from donated devices. At one school in the remote village of Nanwalek, Alaska, Apple worked with Tommy Evans, a volunteer aid and local parent to take over day to day management of the new equipment.
"When things were put in place, it took off like a rocket," Evans noted. He also commented that his hearing impaired daughter Tessie was particularly affected by the upgrade in not just hardware but in fast networking, stating that she can now use FaceTime and other iPad apps to communicate with other students and mentors worldwide, erasing the feeling that she was the only deaf student.
Learning to effectively use technology
Apple notes that its Professional Learning Specialists, "many of whom are former teachers and maintain teaching certificates, provide administrators, teachers and students with tailored, onsite support and guidance to help them reach their goals."
"They're giving us support and we're learning. It's not a one-time thing. The learning keeps getting better." - teacher Brandon Small
Kirt Gordon, a third-grade teacher at Salida del Sol Elementary School in Yuma, Arizona, noted that "Apple made sure not to overwhelm us. We could approach each session in small segments, enabling those of us who were further along to advance on our own."
At Westview Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri, eighth-grade teacher Brandon Small described that Apple's specialists initially provided grounding basics that "gave us something we could use right away in the classroom."
He added, "They're giving us support and we're learning. It's not a one-time thing. The learning keeps getting better."
In addition to Apple, ConnectED has also received around $100 million in support for free Internet connectivity from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, as well as free or discounted software from Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft and others.