Thursday, January 6, 2005

Technology project boosts city schools

Staff Writer

A new technology grant from the Mississippi Department of Education is providing enormous family, student and teacher support for the Holly Springs School District.

Create for Mississippi through Mississippi State University is partnering with the school district to train facilitators. In turn the facilitators train teachers who help students and parents learn how to use computers, according to Sean Owen with the university.

A technical integration consultant, Owen works with both the Intermediate and High School student body and faculty.

“Basically, computers are enhancing traditional instruction with the technology, with a goal of meeting the instructional goals of the district,” he said. “It’s all subject-related where we work as a team to find resources for teachers.”

The university trains several facilitators at the school district who in turn train teachers on site. MSU has worked with a total of 25 school districts since joining the Create for Mississippi project.

“The technology facilitator is a position you don’t find in many districts in the state,” Owen said. “Usually, it’s one-time-training and you hope it sticks. The facilitator is a unique position because they are here daily to answer questions.”

The project brought together facilitators, teachers, technology students and parents through an open house at the Intermediate School’s technology center. The open house rolled into a Parent Teacher Association meeting for convenience, according to Jones Mays, grant coordinator.

“Everything is coming together with this approach,” he said. “I think it is unique here in Holly Springs.”

Mays said the achievement data collected by the school is beginning to reflect improvement with the use of computer-facilitated instruction.

The project serves a dual function - to teach students how to use computers and teach them subject-area instructional content.

Those involved directly at the top in providing technical training for teachers include Owen, Mays, Rev. Joseph Selman, Beverly Phillips, director of the parent center, and Akiah Jones.

Parents can check out play stations from the parents center to take home like a library checks out books. They also check out Reading Blaster and Math Blaster compact disks to use at home with their children.

“That’s very popular,” Phillips said.

Owen said the relationship between instructors at MSU and the school district works better than many other technical training programs.

“If we don’t have continuous support, they (facilitators, teachers) feel like they are stranded on an island,” he said.

MSU has seven school districts now in the project and has touched 25 districts in the last four years, Owen said.

Mississippi Department of Education funds the grant through appropriations from the Mississippi Legislature. The “Technical Education for the Children of Holly Springs” grant is currently running in Phase 5, Mays said.

The school district has garnered over $600,000 in technical grants in the last several years, according to Judy Smith, school district superintendent.

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