1999 Conference Proceedings

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The Mattel Family Learning Program - An Innovative Community Partnership

Russ Holland
Program Director - Alliance for Technology Access
687 Figert Rd.
Cold Brook, NY 13324
Phone - 315.826.3929
Fax - 315.826.3929
E-mail - russholland@ATAccess.org

Tom Morales
Project Manager - Alliance for Technology Access
2175 E. Francisco Blvd. Suite L
San Rafael, CA 94901
Phone - 415.455.4575
Fax - 415.455.0654
E-mail - tommorales@ATAccess.org

Regina Rodman
Coordinator - Mattel Foundation
333 Continental Blvd.
El Segundo, CA 90245
Phone - 310.252.3530
Fax - 310.252.4443
E-mail - rodmanre@Mattel.com

Dave Grass
Center Director- Alliance for Technology Access
3615 Louisiana Rd.
Rockford, Il 61108
Phone - 815.229.2163
Fax - 815.229.2438
E-mail - davegrass@earthlink.net

Kathy Perini
Principal, Emperor Elementary School
6415 Muscatel Ave.
San Gabriel, CA 91775
Phone - 626.285.2111
Fax - 626.292.7843

The Mattel Family Learning Program (MFLP), is an initiative of the Mattel Foundation, the philanthropic organization that is funded annually through a percentage of Mattel, Inc. pretax corporate profits. This program has a nine year history of making computer technology available and accessible to students with special needs and represents one of their most significant efforts toward their mission to improve the lives of children throughout the world, with a special emphasis on children challenged by poverty, disadvantage and/or disability.

The MFLP is the result of a unique collaboration between the private business sector, a nationwide non-profit agency, the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA), public schools and community centers. Through 80 programs currently in operation, the MFLP has had a profound impact on the education of thousands of students in 28 states, Canada, Mexico and Hong Kong. Significantly, this includes 4,150 special education students; 4,184 African-American students; 1,612 Asian-American students; 6,713 Hispanic students; 241 Native-American students; and 13,701 students identified as being at risk because of their family's low income status. Additionally, nearly 600 teachers, special education instructors, librarians, administrators, paraprofessionals, volunteers, and parents have benefited from specialized training, provided by ATA, and from the use of computer equipment provided by the Mattel Foundation.

The MFLP was launched in 1990 with the establishment of Writing to Read computer labs designed to teach K-1 students to read and write in a self-contained lab environment. The project had a positive influence on the writing and reading achievement of all students, but was especially effective for students with special needs.

In 1994, the Mattel Foundation began a partnership with the ATA, [didn't our relationship with them begin prior to this?] an agency that seeks to bring technology into the lives of children and adults with disabilities. The two shared a common goal to improve the educational achievement of all children, especially those with special needs, through the imaginative application of computer technology in classrooms across the country. Together, they refined the mission of the MFLP from providing participating schools with a Writing to Read lab to providing schools and community centers with the opportunity to choose equipment that complements their existing technology programs.

Advances in technology and the growing popularity and accessibility of the Internet and World Wide Web prompted the MFLP to provide its participants with the hardware, software, wiring, and technical support necessary to go online. ATA created a closed listserve and web site as vehicles for the centers to share resources, creations, find pen pals and establish other beneficial online connections.

Recognizing the strong and direct correlation between educational success and the involvement of the family in a child's education, especially children with special needs, the MFLP began to provide support to schools and community centers enabling them to develop after-school, family involvement programs.

These programs now provide parents and other primary care-givers, as well as siblings, opportunities outside of established school hours to learn how computers are helping children with disabilities accelerate academically and gain self-confidence. Moreover, it allows family members to develop and improve their own technology skills. Family members also get to see first-hand how adaptive technology and appropriate software can support their child's attainment of educational and social goals. They benefit from seeing their child mastering something seemingly complicated and intimidating and taking center stage as 'computer stars'. As 'computer stars', the children are able to show their siblings, parents and peers how to use the technology. These after-school programs not only strengthen every child's ability to learn, but strengthen bonds between family, school and community.

The Mattel Foundation / Alliance for Technology Access collaboration has resulted in a highly successful program. The ATA first became involved with the MFLP by adapting the Writing to Read program for students with disabilities. In the next phase of the program, the ATA assisted participating schools get online, with computers provided by the Mattel Foundation, by providing telecommunications training for teachers, ongoing technical support, a listserve and web site to build resource sharing and a sense of community.

One MFLP success story came from Moffett Elementary School in Los Angeles: "Jamal has been in special education programs since first grade. He has had trouble academically since he entered school. When he began working in the Mattel Family Learning Center, he found himself. He found that he was gifted in computer use. He learns to use new software more quickly than anyone in the class, including the teachers!

Through the Mattel Family Learning Center, Jamal has become a mentor to other students and parents in the program. He has become a master in teaching computer use and software use and parents frequently request his assistance. The Program Coordinator sends Jamal to help others and calls him the "Assistant Teacher."

Jamal has now found new confidence in himself which has translated itself into remarkable academic progress and conviction that when he grows up, he will be working with computers."

Kathy Perini, principal of Emperor Elementary School in San Gabriel, CA credits the efforts of the MFLP for much of her school's success. 'We have been recognized as a California Distinguished School. One of the reasons that we received this recognition is because of our commitment to technology. Support from the Mattel Foundation and ATA launched us into areas of technology that we normally would not have gone into.' Emperor School's grant from the Mattel Foundation and support from the ATA inspired the staff and administration to make a commitment to computer technology for all students, regardless of ability.

The MFLP plans to expand the scope of the program in the future, increasing their presence to all fifty states and bringing empowering technology to traditionally underserved populations. The program also has an ongoing committment to provide training to educators in the use of computers in the classroom, telecommunications, and assistive technology.

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