Grant expands digital learning

ENGLEWOOD — Cris Walton, youth librarian at Elsie Quirk Library, knew staff was on to something special when it introduced Advanced Workstations in Education’s Early Literacy Stations to the library in 2008.

Thanks to the success of the program, grants and the Library Foundation of Sarasota County, there will be 10 new AWE stations at Sarasota County libraries. The Library Foundation will hold a dedication at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Elsie Quirk, 100 W. Dearborn St.

“We’re the first library in Sarasota County to have the AWE program,” Walton said. “The first batch, we got a grant from the Plantation Community Foundation. Before the new machines, we used to have to change-out disks. The devices we have now are new.”

AWE Digital Learning Solutions is an educational company based in Philadelphia. The 10 new AWE stations ensure that every public library in the county will have at least two. AWE stations can be found at the Elsie Quirk, Fruitville, Gulf Gate, Jacaranda, North Port, North Sarasota, Selby and Venice libraries. Funding for the new machines included a $25,000 grant from the William G. Selby and Marie Selby Foundation, and a matching $10,000 from donors through the Library Foundation, according to a press release.

The current machines are touchscreen-enabled and have mouse functionality.

“These programs make learning fun,” said Shannon Staub, president of the board for the Library Foundation of Sarasota, and a former Sarasota County commissioner. “I’ve seen a 2-year-old girl use one. She picked it up and she had an easy time using the touchscreen. Not everyone would be aware about mouse functionality.”

The stations are for ages 2 to 8, but the majority of users, Walton said, are 2 to 6.

“The new machines have preloaded software,” she said. “Approximately 60 games are preloaded with (subjects including) reading, science, math, music and geography. We usually average five to six a day who use the machines, and we have a 30-minute limit.”

Walton said while the old machines functioned through disks, the newer ones use apps. Some of the programs are bilingual, and are available in Spanish. Programs are covered through an annual subscription covering software updates. The Friends of Elsie Quirk Library group covers the annual costs for the library.

“The kids are excited to use it,” Walton said. “It’s super simple, and we love it.”    For more information about AWE, visit .

More information about the Library Foundation is available at http://www.sarasota

To reach Elsie Quirk, call 941-861-1212.

About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News,, and Tampa Tribune.
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