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About

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DonorsChoose.org and Digital Promise are running a pilot program for the 2013-2014 school year that provides 300 K-8 teachers nationwide with up to $6,000 per teacher to purchase digital courseware in core content areas for their classrooms. 

These discretionary funds, or “teacher wallets,” will allow teachers to make their own budget and purchasing decisions about instructional technologies, and will allow us to better understand how teachers find, evaluate, and implement digital courseware in their classrooms.

Participating teachers will be selected from four districts within the League of Innovative Schools and will directly select and purchase digital courseware for their students through DonorsChoose.org. Digital courseware includes educational games, apps, and other software used by students on a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. In addition to providing purchasing autonomy for teachers, this program will create valuable education opportunities for more than 10,000 students.
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During the project, SRI International—an independent, nonprofit research institute—will contact participating teachers who are willing to participate in research to learn about their choices and use of the courseware. This effort is aimed at building a better understanding of teacher demand for courseware and use of courseware in K-8 classrooms.

Who We Are


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Digital Promise, an independent, bipartisan nonprofit organization that supports innovation in education, convenes the League of Innovative Schools—a unique national coalition of 40 school districts in 24 states committed to demonstrating, evaluating, and scaling up innovations that deliver better results for students.

DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on our site, and you can give any amount to the project that most inspires you.

SRI International is a nonprofit research institute and innovation center conducting client-sponsored R&D in education, technology, and life sciences.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and fighting hunger and poverty. In the United States, it seeks to significantly improve education so that all young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Research

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In most schools, decisions about buying courseware happen in district or school offices far from the day-to-day considerations of teachers. We’d like to know what teachers would do if courseware purchasing decisions were in their hands. The Teacher Wallets program will provide a better understanding of how teachers choose digital courseware when given their own budget and purchasing opportunities.
Through data collection and research, DonorsChoose.org and SRI International will report on teachers’ decision-making processes and purchase choices, and how that behavior impacts the classroom and student achievement. The results will help districts, schools, teachers, and the education community learn more about the educator’s role in improving students’ access to technology in the classroom.

Participating Districts

Teachers in Meridian Joint School District #2, IdahoNew York City’s iZone; Piedmont School District, Alabama; and Utica Community School District, Michigan, are participating in the Teacher Wallets program. Each district is a member of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.

Participation in this program is free. 

Teachers may apply for digital courseware only for Math, English/Language Arts, Science, or Social Studies classes. Digital courseware only applies to instructional software programs and does not include hardware, such as tablets or laptops.

DonorsChoose.org will administer digital courseware purchases. If you are selected, you must have or create a DonorsChoose.org account to receive funds.

Meridian Joint District No. 2

Meridian, Idaho

The Teacher Wallets point of contact for Meridian is
Eian Harm (harm.eian@meridianschools.org)



Utica Community Schools

Sterling Heights, Michigan

The Teacher Wallets point of contact for Utica is
Catherine Einhaus (catherine.einhaus@uticak12.org)

NYC Dept. of Education iZone

New York City, New York

The Teacher Wallets point of contact for New York City is
Kara Chesal (kara@innovatenycschools.org)



Piedmont City School District

Piedmont, Alabama

The Teacher Wallets points of contact for Piedmont are
Jason Yun and Matt Akin

Courseware

The courseware vendors listed below (and more) are available through AKJ Books in the DonorsChoose.org vendor directory or are available through special request through DonorsChoose.org. You will also find 13 winning apps from the NYC Schools 2013 Gap App Challenge as options available by special request for this program. Digital courseware not found below or at DonorsChoose.org can also be made available by special request through DonorsChoose.org.

Compare Digital Courseware Options
Want to learn more about your digital courseware options? We have just the tools for you!

Graphite, a free service from Common Sense Media, helps teachers find, understand, and share the best digital learning products available. For an introduction to Graphite and how to navigate the many digital courseware options available, download this guide.

EdSurge is an independent information resource and community for everyone involved in education technology. It aims to help educators discover the best products and how to use them, and to inspire developers to build what educators and learners need.
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Contact

We’re looking forward to working with you to bring digital courseware to your classroom!


If you have questions about using your funding and receiving your courseware, please contact the DonorsChoose.org help team and reference the Digital Courseware Teacher Wallets Program.
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FAQ

Program Policies

When does this pilot end?

Wallet funding expires on the following dates for each of the four districts:

   -Piedmont: 5/31/14

   -Meridian: 6/13/14

   -Utica: 6/13/14

   -NYC: 6/26/14

How is one selected to participate in the Teacher Wallets program?

Teachers in the Meridian Joint School District #2 (ID), iZone (NYC), Piedmont School District (AL), and Utica Community School District (MI) can apply to participate by filling out the online application. DonorsChoose.org and SRI International will invite a group of teachers to participate in the program based on the applications received and provide further details and instructions to those selected.

Teachers can apply as an individual or as part of a team of teachers. If you opt to apply as a team of teachers, fill out the online application and, when prompted in Part A, complete the questions asking you to provide information about your other team members. DonorsChoose.org and SRI International will consider these team applications together.

Can wallet funds carry over to the next SY?

No. This pilot program is funded for one year only.

Are waitlisted teachers guaranteed a wallet?

No. Waitlisted teachers are not guaranteed a wallet nor are they guaranteed participation in the program. Should a selected teacher opt out of the program, SRI will consider the needs of the project at that time and make a selection (or not) based on those needs. If it is determined that the available slot be replaced by another teacher, SRI will make that determination and a waitlisted teacher will be contacted.

Why am I supposed to only buy courseware for one class?

This program is designed to understand what teachers will purchase if they have budgets equivalent to what a school/district spends on instructional materials per student each year - about $200 per student, up to $6,000 for a class of 30 students. If you try to spread the funding over more students (say, in other sections), you may be limiting your choices to only the least expensive courseware and eliminating some of the highest-impact courseware from consideration. Programs like Lexia Reading and Reasoning Mind, for example, cost more than $100 per student, but research shows that using them can produce significant learning gains.

If you were to spend the wallets in ways other than those around which the program is designed, we wouldn’t be able to understand how you would choose under ideal conditions and what the benefits are for individual students. This is why it is important to us that you choose for only one class of students.

Do teachers have to write actual “thank you’s” as part of the process of posting a project on DonorsChoose.org?

Teachers will need to complete the digital portion of the thank you package process, which consists of writing a quick thank-you note and taking pictures of the resources in use. Teachers will not need to ship thank-you letters from their students. Please contact your district’s POC if you run into any actual issues there, and DC.org can follow up with their operations team.

Once a teacher submits their first project, how will they know how much money is left in their wallet?  Will DonorsChoose let them know their balance?

DonorsChoose.org will share a Google doc with POCs that will include updates on their new wallet balances. DonorsChoose.org will also send out a monthly email update to teachers that includes their wallet balance.

If a teacher initially applied to participate in the Teacher Wallets program with one class in mind (e.g., her 5th grade science class of 25 students) and has since determined that her 4th grade science class of 27 students would benefit most from the courseware purchased through this program, is she able make the switch?

Please contact your district’s POC so she / he may be in touch with the Teacher Wallets team. This may be a possibility.

When teachers send in a “project” through AKJ Books/DonorsChoose there are two sets of “fees” attached to the total price. First, a materials and handling fee from Donor’s Choose. Second, a what they say is an optional donation, but cannot be unselected. What are these and how do we work around them?

The handling fee is described in a little more detail here but, essentially, it goes toward project-specific costs such as postage and project fulfillment costs. (Of course, there aren’t really any “postage” costs for courseware, but the central point is that the handling fee goes only toward fulfilling the project.)

As far as the 15% donation fee, teachers can’t remove that donation amount; the decision about whether or not to include the 15% is on the donor end. For the Teacher Wallets program, DonorsChoose.org will exclude that donation entirely (since it’s baked into a different part of the grant), so participants only need to pay attention to the “Project cost excluding donation to support DonorsChoose.org.” Please visit the DonorsChoose.org help center page on the optional donation for more information.

Choosing Digital Courseware

What can I buy?
You can request any type of student-facing courseware (i.e., educational games, apps, or other software to be used on desktops, laptops, or tablet computers), provided that the total cost doesn’t exceed your wallet’s funds. The courseware must be intended for student use in Math, English/Language Arts, Science, or Social Studies. Digital courseware only applies to instructional software programs and does not include hardware, such as tablets or laptops. Additionally, no course management tools can be purchased solely for the teacher’s benefit. Make sure to check with your district’s point of contact to see if your district places any other restrictions on the types of courseware you can use.

How do I request my resources?
If you are selected to participate in this program, you need to register as a teacher on DonorsChoose.org and create a project for the digital courseware materials of your choice. Make sure that the total cost of your project is less than the amount you’ve been granted. (You can find this amount in the email confirming your participation in the program.) A week after your project is approved, DonorsChoose.org staff will review your project and provide full funding as long as it is (1) entirely made up of digital courseware, and (2) the total cost aligns with your grant from the Gates Foundation. You’ll then receive an email with further instructions on how to access your courseware.

Is there training involved with any of the courseware options?
Training requirements and availability vary by vendor and product. Apps, for example, don’t come with training, but comprehensive products like Reasoning Mind often do. The wallets will only cover training and professional development when it is bundled with the learning technology itself, like with Reasoning Mind or ST Math. The wallets don’t cover training or professional development independent of products, meaning that they don’t provide general training on teaching with digital courseware. It’s up to the teacher / school / district to investigate the products. We suggest you use Graphite and EdSurge’s product reviews to do so, as they provide comprehensive coverage of most of the leading digital courseware on the market.

Is the courseware available compatible with my district’s technology requirements?
Generally, the products listed for purchase are compatible with school technology needs and requirements. However, it is up to the districts to investigate the products, including tech requirements, and handle implementation.

If the courseware is priced for a license that lasts for more than one year, are the teachers able to continue using it in future years?
If the licenses automatically last longer than a year, the teachers can continue using it in future years. The only caveat is that teachers cannot purchase an extra long license using their Teacher Wallet funds.

When will my digital courseware license expire?
The courseware provider will determine the expiration date of your license. Check your courseware’s listing and details to determine when your license will expire.

Can I request additional funds from the DonorsChoose.org donor community for my project?
Yes, DonorsChoose.org will be able to contribute to these projects while they’re on their site. However, we recommend that you keep your total project cost under your wallet limit; otherwise, we can’t guarantee that your project will be fully funded.

Can teachers purchase instructional DVDs as a reading program?
No. DVDs are not personalized, interactive, or considered software so they are not eligible to be purchased with Teacher Wallets funds.

Purchasing Digital Courseware

What are points?

DonorsChoose.org uses a points system to guide teachers to submit projects that are likely to be funded. Teachers must use points in order to post classroom requests and earn points back by responding promptly to emails and requests from DonorsChoose.org.

As a participant in this program, you’ll have guaranteed funding from the Gates Foundation so DonorsChoose.org will adjust your account to at least 6 points, allowing you to create a project for more than $800. If you aren’t seeing at least 6 points in your account one week after confirming your participation in the program, contact the DonorsChoose.org team.

When will my wallet be awarded the full set of points on my DonorsChoose.org account?
Selected teachers will be asked to complete a Google Form confirming their participation prior to wallets fully being loaded. Once this form is completed and submitted to DonorsChoose.org, DonorsChoose.org will award the remaining sets of points to teachers’ wallets.

How do I receive my resources once my project is fully funded?
If you’ve ordered your courseware through AKJ Books, you’ll receive an email with instructions on how to access your courseware. If you’ve ordered other kinds of courseware through special request, DonorsChoose.org work with you to make sure you get your digital courseware.

Am I able to return a product I am not satisfied with and request a new one?
If you need to return or exchange an item, immediately contact DonorsChoose.org and they will work with you to determine whether they can return your product.

Who will handle the contracts with the courseware vendors?
DonorsChoose.org oversees this process and handles all relationships with courseware vendors for courseware purchased through their website (once teachers create and submit a project).

Who will handle the contracts with the courseware vendors?
DonorsChoose.org oversees this process and handles all relationships with courseware vendors for courseware purchased through their website (once teachers create and submit a project).

Can teachers purchase additional licenses for use with other classrooms?
Licenses can only be purchased for the use of the classroom / students for which the teacher applied. If a teacher applied to be considered for a wallet for her 5th grade science class of 25 students and was awarded a wallet, her wallet can only be used to purchase licences for those 25 students in her 5th grade science class. Teachers can purchase digital courseware that is site licensed. Please submit these requests as “special requests” to DonorsChoose.org.

Can Apple apps be purchased through AKJ books or do teachers need to order through special request?

Apple apps cannot be ordered through AKJ books. Teachers will need to place a special request for an iTunes gift card through DonorsChoose.org. DonorsChoose.org will fund the iTunes gift cards using the teachers’ wallets. Teachers are then able to purchase Apple apps with their iTunes gift card.

 

Please note that there are a few hoops they'll need to go through so please bear with us:

   1. When posting this special request, teachers need to be explicit that this is a project being funded by the Teacher Wallets program. This is the only way the vendor team at DC.org will allow the purchase of the gift cards.

   2. Teachers will need to provide the following info in their project description:

      -which apps they will purchase with the gift card;

      -the cost for each app;

      -# of students the app(s) will benefit;

      -which grade / class they're purchasing the app(s) for.

   3. Please ask teachers to hold onto their receipts. SRI / DC.org may request at end of SY for reporting purposes to Gates.

Note: iTunes gift cards can only be used for the purchase of apps for the TW program.

Can teachers purchase digital courseware that is bundled with physical materials (e.g., books or hardware)? For example: A program consists of an online textbook where students can submit their answers, have the text read to them, complete assignments online and communicate with the teacher. The bundle includes a physical textbook even though the textbook is also online.
As long as the product option is a primarily digital or blended program, it is ok if a package comes with print resources. The wallets will not fund, for example, a hard-copy textbook that happens to come with an online video or something similar.

Who will handle the contracts with the courseware vendors?
DonorsChoose.org oversees this process and handles all relationships with courseware vendors for courseware purchased through their website (once teachers create and submit a project).

How long should I expect to wait for a courseware package ordered by special request?
DonorsChoose.org gives its vendors 15 days to completely fulfill orders. If projects are still not processed and / or received two weeks after teachers have their projects funded, teachers should write in to the DC.org help center to get an update on their materials.

Should a courseware option not have licensing requirements, is it ok if the teacher shares the courseware with other teachers for their use if it's ok with the vendor?
Yes; however, please have teachers submit these courseware requests as “special requests” to DonorsChoose.org so we may confirm that this is in fact the case.

I am in the final process of ordering my digital software.  It is making me fill out the application like I was submitting it to Donor's Choice for approval for something other than the Teacher Wallets Program.  Am I doing something wrong?  I am confused.
Teachers will need to fill out all fields (tell us about your students, overview of the resources you’re requesting), since their projects will be reviewed by the DonorsChoos.org team of teacher screeners before getting posted on the site. Unlike with most other projects on the DonorsChoose.org site, the purpose of this will not be to inspire donors; it’s just to keep up the overall quality level of material on the site. Teachers will see, for instance, on this Piedmont project that the essays appear on the project page. It won’t affect their chances of being funded at all, but they’ll need to put some effort into making sure the draft doesn’t get sent back to them by our screener team. However, teachers definitely do not need to worry about fundraising or finding donors, since we’ll of course go in and fund them.

Special Request for Materials Not Available through DonorsChoose

How do I request digital courseware not available on DonorsChoose.org?

If the courseware you need isn’t available through AKJ Books, you can still request it. Place a special request for digital courseware by selecting “Special request for materials not available through the DonorsChoose.org vendor directory” in Step 2 of the project creation process, and provide as much information as you can. The DonorsChoose.org operations team will work with you to obtain licenses for those products.

If the courseware is a special request, how do the teachers find out the pricing?
The pricing will come from the external vendor. For example, if the teacher is requesting digital courseware from Scholastic, the teacher should visit the Scholastic site, locate the item, and note the price.

I’m in the DonorsChoose.org platform and am trying to order materials; however, I am unable to select “special request.” Why is this?
This means that your wallet has not been fully loaded with the adequate number of points. You will see this occur at the beginning of the program. Selected teachers will be asked to complete a Google Form confirming their participation prior to wallets fully being loaded. Once this Google Form is completed and submitted, DonorsChoose.org will load the remaining points in a teacher’s wallet. The teacher will then be able to order materials through special request.

Would it be possible to receive printed directions on how to request a special project?  I have a few teachers that are confused on this process.

The easiest way to place a special request is to just jump into doing it by selecting “Special Request” in Step 2 of the DonorsChoose.org project submission process. Teachers can find more information about special requests here: http://help.donorschoose.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/70.