Magazine article Technology & Learning

IBM Multimedia Energizes 'At Risk' Students: Cuyahoga Valley Joint Vocational School

Magazine article Technology & Learning

IBM Multimedia Energizes 'At Risk' Students: Cuyahoga Valley Joint Vocational School

Article excerpt

Each year, 700,000 students drop out of high school, costing the nation more than $240 billion in lost earnings and foregone taxes. While many people deplore the problem, one school is doing something about it -- identifying "at risk" students before they drop out, and using IBM multimedia technology to help "turn on" the kids to education again.

Making education more exciting

In Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley, aspiring cosmetologists, medical secretaries and electricians have one thing in common -- state-of-the-art vocational training at the Cuyahoga Valley Joint Vocational School (CVJVS). While the school provides exceptional vocational training to students with very specific career goals, it is now opening its reach to the other end of the spectrum -- "at risk" students who are in danger of dropping out of the school system altogether. During the 1991-92 school year, CVJVS began a pilot program to provide eighth-grade "at risk" students with alternative education.

"These students have a variety of problems," says Brenda Hollensen, district director of the school. "Many are low achievers, with major discrepancies between ability and performance. Some have peripheral risk factors -- they're unable to identify with a peer group, or they have difficulty relating to authority figures. Some have experienced an emotional trauma. Overall, the kids tend to have poor self-concepts and lack any educational goals. These are students who might not succeed without some special assistance or intervention.

"With the 'At Risk' program," she continues, "we're trying to provide an alternative learning environmemt that will motivate the students to stay in schools. Our intent is to change the attitudes and behaviors of the students, while helping them to establish some educational and career goals. Hopefully, we can turn around their thinking about education and enable them to be successful in their mainstream school program."

The "At Risk" program calls for students to spend half of each day at the vocational school, with instructional content centered around four core subjects: math, reading, citizenship/career education and technology/communication skills. Instructors teach in teams, and the program attempts to provide more personal attention to each student than might be possible in his or her home school.

Enter multimedia

Very early in the first year of instruction, CVJVS moved to integrate multimedia technology more fully into its curriculum to support both the "At Risk" program and regular vocational classes. Working with IBM and an IBM Business Partner, the ALIVE Centers of America, Inc., the school equipped its technology lab with 24 multimedia PS/2 workstations. (See box, next page.)

"It's tremendously helpful for students when computer-based instruction can have life and excitement in its delivery," says Dr. Jerry Shuck, superintendent of the school. "With multimedia, we can mix motion video with graphics and text in a single format that makes education exciting for students. Over time, we want to deliver a lot of our instruction this way. We've now taken the first step -- creating one of the most advanced multimedia labs in the country."

The school immediately put its multimedia lab to work in its "At Risk" program. Here, the emphasis was not on delivering multimedia content to students, but on using multimedia as a student presentation medium.

"The project stemmed directly from our work with the students in our 'citizenship' class," says Hollensen. "They had covered the election of the president in this class, and we decided to use multimedia to evaluate what they had learned. Rather than giving the students a pencil-and-paper test, we had them use multimedia to demonstrate what they had learned. We wanted them to visualize, conceptualize and present the important points.

"Information is so great today -- and is available in so many different forms -- that knowing how to locate and synthesize information is becoming very important," she continues. …

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