Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Courseware Gives At-Risk Students Crucial GED Skills

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Courseware Gives At-Risk Students Crucial GED Skills

Article excerpt

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Brian Fitzpatrick takes pride in the fact that he offers at-risk youth who have been expelled or suspended an alternate way to learn the skills they need to pass the GED examination.

Fitzpatrick's program, the Juvenile Justice Computer Assisted Instructional Program (JJCAIP), is a collaboration between the Albuquerque Public Schools, the juvenile justice system and the Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute, the community college where Fitzpatrick's lab is located.

In the lab, 29 networked computers run Skills Bank II instructional software developed by Skills Bank Corp. in Baltimore, Md. Fitzpatrick learned of Skills Bank back in 1989. After researching courseware products used at other incarceration institutions, he visited the University of New Mexico, which implements Skills Bank II in its special education department.

Fitzpatrick liked the program, but knew that his students needed to test it out as well. So he took some of his students back to the college to work on Skills Bank II and offer critiques. When they actually enjoyed working on the Software, Fitzpatrick knew he had found a winner.

* Waiting for a Chance

The JJCAIP is set up on a trisemester basis; each semester Fitzpatrick sees 225 students, ages 14 to 18, who spend 7.5 hours on the computers per week. Every hour a new group of students enter the lab. All must attend for at least two hours a week. Currently, the waiting list for entry is 115 students long.

Some of the JJCAIP students are court-ordered to appear or participation is part of their probation agreement. Others are truants and drop-outs referred by local schools. All are first and second offenders who cannot attend public school, so they are sent to Fitzpatrick's class.

Students' ultimate goal is to complete all of the Skills Bank II modules as preparatory for earning their GEDs. Mathematics, science, social science, English and reading courseware are all available. "Their past [educational] experience is negative," explains Fitzpatrick. "They are turned off to texts. With Skills Bank II, the kids know what they need to do [to earn their GEDs] and can go at their own pace. …

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