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Brenda's Blog


Technology and Hurricane Katrina


In the year since Hurricane Katrina and Rita roared through the five American Gulf States, stories continue to surface about how that natural disaster has impacted the lives and education of students living in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Today, I was proud to learn that the ed-tech community is actively delivering aide and sharing their expertise with the schools and districts impacted by these hurricanes.

If ever there was a case of good coming out of tragedy, this is it. Through ESchool News recent online supplement, I read how technology is being used to rebuild schools and how ed-tech leaders are taking advantage of the opportunity to not only replace infrastructure, but to replace it with structure "that readies students for the 21st century."

One of the heroes of the initiative is the Hurricane Education Leadership Program (HELP), an organization that was formed shortly after the hurricane occurred. Recognizing the need to pull the financial contributions, product donations, and the brain power of contributing corporations under one umbrella, the ed-tech community create advocacy committees made up of some of the most well-connected people in the country. Through their professional associations, those leaders were able to enlist senators and/or congressmen for the help needed to rebuild the schools in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

During a committee trip to Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, it became sorely obvious that the students from the area had lost more than their homes and schools. HELP organizer Terry Smithson, an education strategist for Intel, reported, that in the aftermath of the hurricanes, there are "no playgrounds; there are no shopping malls; there are no movie theaters; there are no sports complexes; there are no golf courses -- I mean, everything is gone. And when you think about all those children, thousands of children across the Gulf Coast who are sitting in 10- by 20-foot trailers, packed next to one another in the FEMA trailers ... they have no outlet to do anything through the summertime."

HELP saw this need and responded by creating technology summer camps for over 500 students in the Louisiana/Mississippi area. Those camps gave students affected by the devastation, a place to come together over the summer to share their personal hurricane stories through digital media. Viewing the vast collection of raw personal experiences gives you a perspective beyond the pictures we all saw on television. Through the art of digital media, we hear the voices, and witness the intense emotion associated with the disaster -- person by person.

Educators often speak of technology being used as a mind-tool. Thanks to the efforts of the HELP organizations Digital summer Camp, the students from Louisiana/Mississippi have experienced it being used a heart-tool, a tool that supports healing. Take a look for yourself: Mobile Learning Institute.

Who Is Brenda?

Brenda Dyck is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching preservice teachers, Brenda is the moderator of MiddleTalk, a listserve sponsored by the National Middle School Association (NMSA). Her "HotLinks" column is a regular feature in NMSA's magazine, Middle Ground. Brenda also is a teacher-editor for MidLink magazine.

Author Name: Brenda Dyck
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