Blending technology into practical instructional formats is par for the course at Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) in Clayton, OH, says Lona P. Bowman, MVCTC Humanities Supervisor, and the English and Social Studies curricula are no exception.
In fact, this year at MVCTC, where students have more than 51 technical and professional programs to choose from, ranging from Cisco Academy to biotechnology to carpentry to preveterinarian technology to sports medicine, to name just a few, students are getting online tools to help improve their writing skills. The technologically up-to-date school — each student is provided a laptop at the WiFi-enabled campus — is well suited to give them an online assist, Bowman adds. “We take the word ‘technology’ in our name very seriously,” she notes.
opportunity, while poorly written
job applications are a figurative
kiss of death."
The school just adopted the MY Access!? (www.gomyaccess.com) online writing instructional program, a prompt-driven, Web-based writing environment that scores student essays instantly and provides individualized instruction that engages and motivates students to want to improve their writing proficiency. The powerful but easy-to-use MY Access! program makes the most of MVCTC’s technological focus, employing a Web-based interface that leverages artificial intelligence to provide essay assessment capabilities and immediate feedback, specific to the student’s writing style and proficiency level, using Vantage Learning’s (www.vantagelearning.com) IntelliMetric? essay scoring technology. Students can plan writing tasks, write to numerous grade level-appropriate prompts, receive immediate feedback on their writing, engage in peer reviews, and revise their writing as appropriate. MY Access! includes writing prompts aligned to core basal reading texts and high-quality, grade-level appropriate literature such as Henry IV and The Scarlet Letter. The program also has the capacity to alert teachers if violent content occurs within an essay, indicating that the student may be planning to harm him- or herself or others.
“Delivering strong writing skills to our 1,600 11th and 12th grade students is critical, and not just for passing the highstakes Ohio Graduation Test, an exam that has gotten more difficult,” Bowman says. “This year’s exam is two grade levels higher than the previous one, with all five parts — science, social studies, math, reading and writing — requiring writing skills. Still, while the Graduation Test is critical, we stress other factors equally.”
Bowman, a 26-year veteran of the 27-district wide career technical school system in southeastern Ohio, cites preparation for careers and post-secondary education — more than half of MVCTC students go on to two- and four-year post-secondary schools — as the other primary driving forces in the school’s commitment to improve communication skills. “Employers are adamant that their employees be able to communicate clearly, thoughtfully and accurately.”
Bowman cites a recent survey of 120 major American corporations employing nearly eight million people that concludes that in today’s workplace writing is a “threshold skill” for hiring and promotion among salaried employees. Survey results indicate that writing is a ticket to professional opportunity, while poorly written job applications are a figurative kiss of death. Bowman cautions, however, that MY Access! does not replace or even decrease teacher involvement with students. “On the contrary,” she says, “it permits teachers to identify and help students with specific needs. We also use MY Access! as an intervention tool. Over the last two years, for example, a teacher intervened with 14 students for the writing part of the Ohio Graduation Test. All of his students passed.”
The 400-student pilot program in 2004-2005 proved so successful, Bowman says, that MVCTC is implementing schoolwide the just-released Version 6.0 of Vantage Learning’s MY Access!. “The pilot program was so impressive that before our Perkins funding came through late last year, teachers were offering to give up their time to help seek funding sources in order to get the program. They had tried the program and they developed enormous confidence in it.”
For more information on MY Access!, contact Harry Barfoot III, Vice President, Vantage Learning (firstname.lastname@example.org).