Preschools Get Gift of Technology 

Employees in PNC’s Technology and Operations division give the gift of technology by converting internal rewards into donations of high-tech tablets to preschool students and teachers.

In the past, preschool teachers at the YWCA of Greater Kalamazoo would fill out 20 student reports for parents each day by hand. What used to take 30 minutes is now reduced to five minutes thanks to high-tech tablets donated by PNC employees.

“The tablets bring value to our organization because teachers are able to spend more time with the kids, and they are able to share more in-depth of what’s going on in the classroom with the families,” said Nichole Weststrate, director of the Y's Children's Center since 2015.

These tablets are among nearly 250 donated by PNC’s Technology and Operations employees to help preschool teachers and their students in 30 early childhood education centers across seven states. So far, the tablets have benefited nearly 9,000 underserved children in 11 cities.

Rewards = Donations

Working together, managers and employees in PNC’s Technology and Operations (T&O) group extended the internal recognition program to support PNC Grow Up Great, the company’s signature cause started in 2004 to improve early childhood education.

Through the program, each time a T&O manager recognizes an employee or team with “Spotlight” points – and includes the “#OneTeam” hashtag in the comments section – funds accumulate toward the purchase of tablets and gift cards, which are then donated to local Grow Up Great-sponsored organizations. The employee still receives all of the awarded Spotlight points while, at the same time, a contribution is made to the community.

Every three months, the tablets and gift cards (for the purchase of learning apps) are donated to the nonprofit preschools, mostly state-funded centers for children ages 3-5 in lower income communities.

“The program makes recognition more meaningful for employees and managers because it makes an impact in the community,” said Matt Tomlinson, a T&O manager based in Pittsburgh and a co-founder of the initiative.

PNC employees (from left) Gretchen Braun, Susan Walsh and Michael Kronenwetter delivered three tablets to
Angels’ Place center in Pittsburgh. Photos courtesy of Angels' Place

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Although the YWCA of Greater Kalamazoo previously used tablets, they were older versions and unable to support the technological capabilities of recent tablets. Grow Up Great volunteers solved this problem when they delivered an updated tablet to the center.

“Our kids love exploring the tablet,” the YWCA’s Westrate said. "The world is moving forward and we need to give them exposure to how the devices work and how to navigate them.”

The apps, purchased with the donated gift cards, are integral to incorporating technology in the curriculums. Teachers choose apps that allow the toddlers to use the whole device – clicking, dragging and tilting – and provide more than entertainment value. Their favorites are apps which teach the alphabet, reading and math such as Endless Alphabet, Nosey Crow E-Books and Eddy’s Number Party.

Teachers also find online videos that children can easily connect with. The activity engages the entire class in conversation and makes any children that feel isolated feel more connected.

The tablets also enable the YWCA center’s staff to communicate with parents, including: ongoing reports; lesson plans; daily updates about their child; and, when needed, emergency alerts. Westrate said:

School and home are connected – we are all on the same team. Being able to have a tool for connectedness makes the parents feel like they are a part of the lesson even if we can’t see each other.

A note from an excited preschooler read: ”Thank you PNC for being so nice to us! We love the tablets that help us learn and grow.”

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PITTSBURGH – Students ages birth to five at the Angels’ Place knew there were two other centers but never thought they would ever see their cross-town classmates. However, when three tablets were brought to the center in October 2015 by PNC employees, they could interact with the other children without leaving the classroom.

“We video chat with the other Angels’ Place locations so our kids can talk with each other. The tablets help to build a sense of community among our centers,” said Stephanie Parker, program director of the Brookline center for four years.

Angels’ Place is a nonprofit organization providing no-pay child care, educational assistance and family support programs for kids of parents who are young, full-time students, single or low-income. The Brookline center has three classes totaling 20 children and use one donated tablet per classroom.

(Second from left) Mary Winter, founding director of Angels’ Place, is visited by PNC employees (from left) Susan Walsh, Gretchen Braun and Michael Kronenwetter with a delivery of high-tech tablets for the program

“Teachers use the tablets as something to diversify their teaching opportunities by enhancing the programs we have to develop fine motor skills, social and emotional development and also as an assessment tool,” Parker said.

The kids use the tablets to photograph their projects and play games that reinforce numbers, letters colors and more. The children’s favorite applications deal with puzzles, the alphabet and drawing, Parker said.

An enthusiastic Eli, 4, said: “I really like to watch the music video and do the penguin dance.”

Three-year-old Payson added: “We see our other friends in Brookline talking to us. It is great!”

Although the tablets are mainly used for instruction, Parker has used it as an administrative tool when traveling to other centers as well as during parent education classes. She can easily pull up online videos for parents to illustrate what their kids learned in the classroom.

“Our children are growing up in a technological world, and we can show them the tools they may not have access to at home and will be able to use in the future,” Parker said.

I am sure we have only scratched the surface of all of the capabilities of our new technology, but we are excited to keep learning.

Matt Tomlinson, a PNC manager, is co-founder of the community initiative

This program makes it possible for employees to recognize team achievements while, at the same time, celebrating those successes with meaningful gifts to Grow Up Great classrooms.

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