Improving School Performance and Career Preparation with a Wireless Computer Lab.

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Nov 24, 2013 (3 years and 4 months ago)

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Improving School
Performance

and Career Preparation with a
Wireless Computer Lab.


by Jr. Ronald Styron , Fan Disher

October 2003
--
Feature

Two years ago, mandeville high school (http://mandevillehigh.stpsb.org/in in Louisiana purchased a mobile wireless

computer lab with grant funds
from the state. This lab not only helped improve the writing and research skills of the school's ninth
-
grade students, but also improved its overall
performance

score to become one of the highest performing schools in the sta
te.

In actuality, the securing and utilization of the mobile computer lab was the culmination of an ambitious school
-
wide
technology

plan spanning four
years. A plan that began with 32 computers and a facility needing substantial retrofitting just to meet

basic electrical needs. This article will serve as a
framework for administrators and teachers who strive to bring curricular
technology

integration to their students, while also trying to raise school
performance

scores as related to accountability progr
amming.

Developing a School
Technology

Plan

The first step in
technology

integration is developing a long
-
range plan. A five to 10 member
technology

committee containing teachers, parents,
community members and students should be formed and charged with
the task of formulating such a plan
--
assessing the current status and usage of
technology

and determining where the school community should be in three years. The committee should also assess the school's infrastruc
ture and
basic needs such as electrical c
onsiderations, furniture, carts and Internet access. In addition, current hardware, including computers, printers,
scanners, projectors, cameras and TVs, as well as software should be inventoried considering age and appropriateness related
to future needs.


After this assessment, a projection of where the school wants to go should be made based on curricular needs and how
technology

can help those
requests. It is not uncommon for schools to labor excessively on hardware and software requirements, while forg
etting about anticipated plans for their
usage and/or how it applies to curricular issues such as accountability
-
related testing programs. During the development of this plan, resources,
including other schools, appropriate literature, and hardware and sof
tware companies, should be consulted. Also, as the plan is formulated, the
generation of required funds must be considered and should be just as detailed and thought
-
out as the sections of the
technology

plan addressing
usage. Within our school
technology

plan, it was deemed necessary to acquire a wireless mobile computer lab to assist with career preparation and
help students get ready for state
-
mandated tests, which comprised part of the overall school
performance

score. Primarily, a mobile computer lab w
as
needed at the school because there was no room for additional fixed labs.

Strengthening Academic Weaknesses

Project CREATE (Careers, Research and Exploration, Application, and
Technology

Education
) was designed to use wireless
technology

as a catalyst

to
integrate computer application skills into the writing process with an emphasis on research for future careers. A major goal
of the project was to
improve the lifelong skills of
technology

usage and writing of ninth
-
graders.

Project CREATE focused on
careers, while giving students the
technology
, research and writing experiences necessary to help create their futures. The
project sought to produce students who were critical thinkers, independent problem
-
solvers, as well as information seekers and proce
ssors. It also
sought to cultivate students who were more aware of the career options available to them, as well as the skills and coursewor
k necessary to pursue
those careers. Overall, there were more than 365 regular and special needs ninth
-
graders impac
ted by this project.

Project CREATE was implemented through the addition of a mobile computer lab containing 32 wireless, networked laptop compute
rs to the
instructional environment of the school. The mobile lab was brought into each ninth
-
grade English 1

class once a week. The English 1 teacher along

with the lab facilitator planned and conducted this class. All involved personnel attended six hours of training for familiar
ization with IBM
-
compatible
computers, Microsoft Office 2000, Internet search engin
es, as well as other software and research materials.

The mobile computer lab consisted of two laptop carts with 16 Compaq laptops each, plus a printer and teacher station. The la
b used software such as
Microsoft Office Pro 2000, Open Office Pro 2000, Ins
piration and Microsoft LearningPaq software, which includes Bookshelf, Encarta Encyclopedia,
Works, World Atlas, Student Writing and Research Center, TimeLiner, and VirusScan. In addition, soft funds were used for mate
rials and supplies,
including floppy d
isks, paper, toner and storage boxes.

Facilitated by seven English 1 teachers, two career orientation teachers and a lab facilitator, Project CREATE consisted of t
hree components:

1.
Technology

education

targeted computer application skills intertwined i
n the writing process. Students created portfolios of computer application
activities and writing assignments. These activities provided students with experiences in selecting appropriate technologica
l tools and applying
technologies such as word processin
g, hypermedia and network search tools.

2. Students employed these skills in a research environment that included various print, Internet and electronic resources in

focusing on careers. The
students also organized and extracted meaningful information usi
ng their word
-
processing skills.

3. Finally, during application, students created a research project based on a career, integrating the information and skills

accumulated in the above
two components. The objective was to integrate computer application, wr
iting and research skills into the English 1 curriculum to better prepare
students for tomorrow's information
-
intensive world, assist them in choosing a career and prepare them for their state
-
mandated tests.

The purpose of Project CREATE was to strengthe
n student academic weaknesses as identified through teacher input, articulation with feeder schools
and analysis of the test data. Careers were used as a focus to make the research more meaningful and applicable, as well as t
o guide the students in
their h
igh school preparation for the future.

Each of the following components emphasized organizational skills through the compilation of student portfolios. These portfo
lio requirements allowed
students to select
performance

criteria, maintain an activity log
and create a table of contents. Portfolios also provided students a mechanism to give a
written explanation of the problem
-
solving and processing techniques employed throughout this project.

The first component,
technology

education
, targeted computer app
lication skills such as the many aspects of word processing (e.g., formatting and
creating tables). Various elements of those skills were incorporated into assignments created by English 1 teachers in conjun
ction with a computer
resource instructor. The as
signments were designed to promote computer literacy, strengthen writing ability and allow career exploration
simultaneously.

In the second component, career research and exploration, library research techniques critical to students in all curricular
area
s were emphasized.
Given today's abundance of available information, it is extremely vital that schools steer students away from memorization an
d toward the utilization of
multimedia sources in the processing of information. In addition, it is becoming inc
reasingly necessary for students to be able to research and organize
all forms of electronic media. Use of the Internet, multimedia and traditional print resources in a classroom provides studen
ts with an opportunity to
access more information at a faster
pace, serving as a link among all educational disciplines.

During the third component, application, students came to recognize the usefulness of the computer as a research tool. They u
sed it to apply their
newly acquired computer skills toward the product
ion of a research project. Students selected their topics relative to their career paths or interests. The
assignment was coordinated with the assistance of the career orientation teacher and their advisor. The research project also

contained a written
com
ponent demonstrating the knowledge of all aspects of the writing process.

Project CREATE Results

Data from Project CREATE not only documented student success relative to career selection and preparation, but also documente
d overall school
-
performance

sco
re
improvement
. As a result of this project, Mandeville High School's Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) scores rose an
average of 2%; thus, contributing to an overall increase in the school's 2002
performance

score. The following data shows the s
uccess of the project:

* 363 of 365 students scored 75% or higher on the final checklist, which included computer application skills such as creatin
g and formatting word
-
processing documents, envelopes, labels and tables, as well as collecting data in a s
preadsheet and insetting it in a word
-
processing document.

* The average score in "sources of information" increased by 3.9 points and the number of students scoring in the lower two q
uartiles decreased by 23
students. This data is from the ITED, which is

30% of the high school
performance

scores in Louisiana.

* 92% of the students completed their research project and obtained the grade for which they contracted.

* 97% of the students successfully completed their portfolio.

* 100% of students completed
their career academy pathway.

Integration of New Technologies

The acquisition of lifelong skills is necessary in today's rapidly evolving job market. Several key factors affecting the abi
lity of students to learn and do
research on their own were enhance
d through the integration of new technologies into the English 1 curriculum, including encouragement of critical
-
thinking and processing skills; acquisition, evaluation and application of information
technology
; relevance and motivation of students; suppor
t of
collaboration among students; and applied learning.

Some of the foundational skills that were addressed included:

* Communication
--
the ability to communicate clearly, fluently, strategically, critically and creatively in society, as well as in a var
iety of workplaces.

* Problem solving
--
the application of knowledge and thinking processes.

* Resource access and utilization
--
identification and employment of appropriate tools, techniques and technologies essential to all learning processes.

* Linking

and generating knowledge
--
use of cognitive processes to generate and link knowledge across the disciplines.

* Citizenship
--
working together for the benefit of the individual and the community; being accountable for one's choices and actions.

-
1
-



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Publication Information:
Article Title: Improving School Performance and Career Preparation with a Wireless Computer Lab. Contributors: Fan Disher
-

author, Jr.
Ronald Styron
-

author. Journal Title: T H E Journa
l. Volume: 31. Issue: 3. Publication Year: 2003. COPYRIGHT 2003 T.H.E. Journal, LLC; COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group