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Tom Elwood

ABE/GED Teachers at Off-site Location Obtain Equipment and Software Appropriate for Their Students on a Shoe-String budget
Year One

Description: Tom is an older man with graying blonde hair. He is wearing a light green short sleeve shirt. He is standing at the podium with his laptop.

Description: The opening slide shows the town sign which reads Pixley, California. Population - 2,586. The second slide shows a map of California, divided into counties. Tulare County is highlighted. It is located in the middle of the lower half of the state. The text reads – located in Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley. The next slide shows a wooden sign for the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge. There is a flying bird on the sign. The text reads – Home of the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge.

Tom Elwood: I like my presentation to you is more about a town than it is about technology. The town is Pixley, a small town on Highway 99 in Tulare County, southern part of the San Joaquin Valley. I think Pixley's only claim to fame is the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge. It is an area of about ten square miles of marshland, native habitat, frequented by the sand hill cranes. They did a count in February, they found 6,000, don't ask me how they count cranes at a park, I don't know, but they found 6,000 of them in the park. But this has nothing to do with our story.

Description: The next slide reads – Pixley, California

  • This town is characterized by four major themes
    • Agriculture
    • Poverty/unemployment
    • Low educational level
    • Language

The following slide shows a graphic of cows in a field with the title Tulare County – the largest agricultural producing county in the world. The next slide shows four photos: a grape vineyard, a man cutting open a orange in an orange grove, cattle and calves, and a black and white milk cow. Agricultural products totaled $4.3 billion.

Tom: It appears to me that Pixley is characterized by four major themes. They are: agriculture, poverty, education level, and language. Tulare County is the world's largest producer of agriculture. The four top crops in Tulare County are: grapes, oranges, cattle, and milk. And Tulare County produced last year, this much in agricultural products, a huge amount of money.

Description: The next slide shows a bar graph entitled Agriculture. The population of Tulare County is shown, one bar representing people, 400,000 and the other bar representing cows, 600,000. The audience laughs as they realize that cows outnumber people in Tulare County.

Tom:In spite of this tremendous agricultural wealth, Tulare County is very poor. But before I get to that I want to show you something how important agriculture is in Tulare County (bar chart showing that cows outnumber people in Tulare County; audience laughs). And after I made this slide, I discovered that if you count the turkeys, there's yet another 200,000 above the number of cows, so anyway.

Description: This slide shows a chart listing the per capita income for several counties in California entitled Poverty/Unemployment – Per Capita Income by County.

Del Norte


But Pixley's is $8,674.

Tom: In per capita income, out of California's 58 counties, Tulare County is 50th. But what I want to see is the per capita income for Pixley.

Audience members: Wow, oh wow.

Description: The next slide is also called Poverty/Unemployment. The bullet points are:

  • Most months in the last few years, Pixley's unemployment rate has been above 25%
  • This about three times the rate for the entire state of California
  • 42% of the population is below the federal poverty level
  • 39% of those employed, work in agriculture

There are photos of ramshackle houses, one with laundry drying on the chain link fence. The caption reads – much of the housing in the Pixley area is sub-standard.

Tom:Yeah. Almost every month for the last several years, Pixley's unemployment rate has been above 25 percent. That's roughly, three times as much as the rate for the state of California. Forty two percent (of the population is below the Federal poverty level). Now, one of the things I think you notice here is that if 39 percent of these people work in agriculture most of those jobs are seasonal. And that partly accounts for the low per capita income. I wasn't quite sure how to show poverty in a picture. But I sent my wife to Pixley and said go take some pictures; find me some poor looking houses and this was one of them. And here's another one. And one of my students said, "You didn't look very hard. You could have found worse houses than that."

Description: The next slide shows a photo of a line of people standing outside a building. The caption reads – a portion of the people waiting in line for the county's free food distribution.

Tom: Here's a portion of the line of the people in the food giveaway program. And you have to know this building. They're at the outside but the actual food is clear at the far end of the building, so this is a very long line.

Description: The next slide is entitled Education. The bullet points are:

  • 60.8% of Pixley resident have less than a high school diploma
  • Grade school students are served by the Pixley Elementary School District
  • High school student are bussed to Tulare (20 miles)
  • The nearest junior colleges are:
    • College of the Sequoias (Visalia – 26 miles)
    • Porterville College (Porterville – 25 miles)
  • The nearest four-year colleges are in:
    • Fresno (65 miles)
    • Bakersfield (50 miles)

Tom: This number just blows me away, 60 percent. The people in Pixley are served by an elementary school district and their high school students are bussed to Tulare which is 20 miles away. As far as higher education is concerned, the distance means that many promising Pixley students just don't get to college because they just don't have the transportation.

Description: The next slide is entitled Language/Ethnicity.. The bullet points are:

  • 68.2% consider themselves to be Hispanic
  • Spanish is the primary language spoken at home in 57.6% of the households

Tom: Sixty eight percent of the people in Pixley consider themselves to be Hispanic. Fifty seven percent of them, Spanish is their primary language.

Description: This slide is called Pixley Adult Education.. The bullet points are:

  • The Pixley Adult Education Center
    • Is a part of the Tulare Adult School
    • Is 20 miles from the main campus
    • Offers
      • English as a Second Language
      • Adult Secondary Education

Tom: Now, in that, the Tulare Adult School has had for many years, a presence in Pixley. It is 20 miles from our main campus and I'll just throw out the line to you – out of sight, out of mind, okay. We offer there, English as a Second Language and Adult Secondary Education.

Description: The next two slides are photos of the Pixley Adult Education Center. They are modular buildings. The caption reads – the Pixley Adult Education Center is located on the campus of the Pixley Elementary School District. The facility is house in three modular buildings.

Tom: We're on the campus of the Pixley Elementary School District. We have three modular buildings.

Description: This slide is called English as a Second Language. There is a photo of a teacher sitting with a student in her classroom. The bullet point is:

  • The ESL program has been a traditional classroom, using books, paper, and pencils

The next slide shows another photo of Linda Bryan's classroom. The students are busily working on their projects. The caption reads – Linda works with her class on an English lesson. The next slide shows a class photo. It appears to be all Hispanic women in the class.

Tom: The lady in the white is Linda Bryan who was one of my mentees. This has been a traditional classroom, pencil, paper, and lots of conversation. One of the things I found about Linda's classroom was that it was extremely warm, extremely friendly. Her students were very happy to be in her class. I was very surprised when her students said, "Can we have our picture taken?' So, this is what we got. And particularly with the immigration thing, Linda told me, that of her 32 students, 25 of them are undocumented.

Description: The next slide is entitled Adult Secondary Education. It shows a photo of another classroom with the teaching walking among her students. The bullet point is:

  • ASE students earn credits toward their high school diploma, mostly musing textbooks and workbooks

The next slide shows a photo of the ASE class, also all women. The following slide shows Carol working one-on-one with a student and the caption reads – Carol works with her students mostly one-on-one or in small groups. Tom is shown continuing his presentation.

Tom: In our other classroom, the lady on the left, Carol Bowman, teaches adult secondary education. Students in that class can earn all of the credits they need to earn a high school diploma. And I think its monkey see, monkey do. This class saw the other class got their picture taken, so they wanted theirs as well. Most of her students are female between the ages of 18 and 22. Again, very traditional classroom, textbooks, pencils, paper. One of the things I observed with Carol is that she is constantly moving around the classroom, constantly one-on-one with her students; again I think a very friendly, very warm atmosphere.

Description: This slide is entitled Computer Use. The bullet points are:

  • All three classrooms had a few outdated computers (Windows 3.1)
  • These computer were almost totally unused
  • There was little software installed that was appropriate for the classes
  • The cost of Internet access is prohibitive
  • Budget constraints prohibited purchasing new computer this year

Tom: What I found was that we had some really updated computers (sarcasm), Windows 3.1, almost totally unused, no appropriate software for the classrooms, the cost of Internet access was prohibitive, and budget constraints prohibited purchasing anything new.

Description: Audience chuckling "Holy cow!"

Description: This slide is entitled The Plan. The bullet points are:

  • 16 used computer from another program became available
  • For now, two of these would be installed in each of the three Pixley classrooms
  • Eventually, all 16 computers will become one computer lab
  • No major purchase were envisioned due to budge constraints


Tom continues his presentation as the audience claps and laughs.

Description: The Plan continues. The bullet points are:

  • Teachers would attempt to locate inexpensive software appropriate to their class ($10 - $50 per program)
  • Teacher would determine how these programs would be integrated into their classrooms
  • Software would be ordered by March 2006

Tom: So, we had to have a plan of some kind. The first thing, we were very fortunate, we found a classroom with 16 computers that were made available to us. We took those 16 computers. For now, we put two of them in each of the three classrooms. Eventually, all 16 computers will go in one classroom and become a computer lab. And I was from day one, after I came back from our first meeting, my principal said, "Well, we don't have any money." And she's a nice, friendly lady but... Some of you understand that, right? So what we decided to do; we were going to ask the two teachers to try to locate very inexpensive software and we figured if we kept the price low enough our principal might let it go by. Then they would have to determine how they were going to use that software in the classroom. And we would order the software my March 2006.

Description: The slide shows a photo of a software box called The Oregon Trail and other photos of The Civil War, the Great Escape, and Road Adventures USA software. The captions read – a portion of the software purchased.

Tom: This is the kind of thing that Linda picked out, pardon me, Carol picked out for her classroom (picture of The Oregon Trail software). She wanted things that emphasized history and geography and science. And so we got things like The Civil War and The Great Chase. It's interesting that you won't see any of this software for the ESL class. There was some kind of glitch in the ordering process and it's just now beginning to arrive. But it's there and when I go back, we'll make sure it gets installed.

Description: The next slide is called Computers. The Microsoft Office logo is pictured. The bullet points are:

  • In addition, Microsoft Office is installed on each of the "new" computers using a district-wide license
  • Textbooks will be provided for each of the components of Microsoft Office

Tom: We insisted that all of those 16 "new" computers have Microsoft Office because we wanted especially the ones in the ASE class to have marketable skills so all of them have Microsoft Office. We're going to provide them textbooks so they can develop those kinds of skills.

Description: Another slide called Computers shows a photo of a student working at a computer with her teacher. The caption reads – Carol explains to her student how to use one of the new programs. The teacher is pointing to the computer screen and the student is using the mouse to navigate through the lesson. The next photo shows the computer screen with the student sitting in front. The caption reads – on her own now, the student navigates through the program.

Tom: So, here's where it all begins. We installed some of the software and Carol has already put one of her students to work and you see how that's gonna go.

Audience member: Oh, God look at that computer (laughing).

Description: This slide is called Total Cost of Software Purchased So Far. There is a graphic of a cartoon man jumping up and down on a bag of money. The next graphic is the silhouette of a person doing a "happy dance". Then the price of the software appears - $327.75.

Tom: Now remember, we have no money, right? Okay, and so this is me when I realize how much software we've bought and how much it cost us. We did a check on May 1st, how much we'd spent. This is my principal when she saw the numbers. And here's the number.

Audience: Oh, my gosh.

Tom: And they will have a fair amount of software in the classroom for that price. And my principal has already said, "Well, if you need to buy a few more things, we can do that."

Audience applause, "Yay!"

Description: This slide is called The Future. The bullet points are:

  • Encourage teachers to put the present software to maximum use
  • Encourage the teachers to continue to look for additional inexpensive software appropriate to their classrooms
  • Encourage the purchase of more software

Tom continues his presentation. The bullet points continue.

  • All of our planning beyond this year has involved a potential grant called Pixley Connect from AT&T to the community during 2006 – 09
    • Will provide high-speed Internet access for the Pixley School District, as well as the Pixley classrooms of the Tulare Adult School
    • Will emphasize computer use by all 6th graders by providing a computer for their use at home
    • Will encourage the parents of those 6th graders to become computer literate (with classes provided by the Tulare Adult School)

Tom: Yeah. For sure. So for the future, we're going to encourage the teachers to put this bit of software that we have to absolute maximum use. We're going to ask them to keep looking for more software and as we have money, we will buy some of it. But here's the thing, in the back of all of this plan, there has been a rumor that AT&T was going to provide a grant to Pixley. And so we kept looking at that. The grant was called Pixley Connect. It was to be for the next three years starting in July. It would provide high-speed Internet access both for the Pixley elementary school and for us. And here's the interesting thing. They propose to put a computer in the home of every sixth grader in town and the catch is that the parents of those sixth graders are gonna have to take classes. Guess who's gonna offer those classes? Right.

Description: The next slide shows a copy of the front page of the Tulare Advance-Register with the headline reading Pixley to Cross Digital Divide, Grant to Fund Computer, Training and High-Speed Internet Access. Grant from AT&T $600,000.

Tom: So I had this presentation all finished, ready to bring to you and show and Friday's newspaper (shows slide of newspaper announcing Pixley Connect grant with much audience applause). The grant for $600,000 is a done deal and we'll begin in July and we are thrilled to death.

Audience: All because of you, too.

Tom: Oh, sure, gosh.

Description: The next slide is called Conclusion and shows a photo of a teacher working with a student at a computer along with another photo of a student working independently at a computer. The bullet points are:

  • We have actually purchased software
  • Teachers are actually using the software to augment their program
  • Students are actually using the software to supplement their learning
  • Students are getting hands-on computer experience
  • We now have
    • Computers in place with a minimum amount of inexpensive software
    • Teachers and student comfortable with the idea of integrating computers into their instructional program
    • A plan in lace that will dramatically expand the use of computers with Internet access through the AT&T grant

Tom: So, where are we now? We have some software. The teachers are actually putting it to use. The students are actually using the software and getting some hands-on computer experience. So we now have computers in place with a minimum amount of inexpensive software, teachers and students both now who are becoming comfortable with using the computer in their classroom, and the AT&T thing which will drastically improve everything.

Description: The Conclusion slide continues and shows photos of the two teachers at Tulare Adult School. The bullet points are:

  • We have a number of happy students
  • We have two happy teachers

Audience: And a number of happy cows (laughter)

Tom: Yeah, hadn't thought of that line. That's good. We have two very happy teachers, and we have one very happy mentor.

Description: The last slide shows a drawing of Tom Elwood sitting at a computer, smiling. The caption reads – and we have one very happy mentor! Tom's signature is at the bottom of the slide.

Description: There is an additional slide at the end of the presentation that shows a photo of Tom's wife and gives her credit for the photography in the presentation - Photography by Martha Elwood.