IBM's Teaching and Learning with Computers Makes the Grade

Five years ago, Dr. Ginger Hovenic, principal of the newly opened Clear View Charter School, Chula Vista, Calif., faced a decision that would reshape the area's educational landscape. Despite a diverse mix of students and surging family income levels, academic achievement levels were not advancing. Students performed far below their peers in reading comprehension, writing and mathematics. The challenge, therefore, became deciding what technology could support the school's main mission: raising the education level of its students. Technology Seen as Key In late 1991, the search process began for an outside technology and service provider. Within a year, Clear View began using Teaching and Learning with Computers (TLC), an implementation model developed by IBM that integrates technology into the classroom. A package of service and training and the courseware sealed Clear View's decision to partner with IBM, says Hovenic. Courseware, including Writing to Read 2000; Stories and More; Writing to Write I, II and III; Measurement, Time and Money; and Math and More have helped increase achievement levels dramatically, according to Hovenic. Math programs have contributed to the school's overall advancement from the bottom to the top quartile on the Stanford Achievement Test. Writing and reading levels also have advanced beyond anyone's expectations. In writing rubrics, students started out at .7 (below the first level) prior to the integration of IBM courseware. Now, students are averaging a 3.2 on a 4 point scale. "Second graders have created and written their own math books, experiencing reading, writing and mathematics in the process. Combining various types of problem solving, math manipulatives and cut and pasting in Math and More, they're able to pull together different components into one work product. Children's reactions and excitement about the next assignments have been incredible," says Hovenic. Integrated learning's true value may be measured most effectively by assessing progress at the next grade level. More than 90% of Clear View students advance to honors classes at the middle-school level. Another half of those same students go on to the International Baccalaureate program, an accelerated high school learning program. From Skeptics to Believers Service and training, for which IBM is well known, played a critical role in the original decision to implement technology. Only two Clear View instructors knew how to use a computer, and many were apprehensive about effectively using hardware and software during daily instruction. "At any given moment during the initial stages, we were riding an emotional rollercoaster about integrated technology," says Hovenic. "After seeing the results though, everyone has become true believers." Service and training have helped turn skeptics into believers. It also has led to more group sharing among other schools' teachers who can see first-hand what the technology can do. A summer Multimedia Academy with 350 participants around the world has also spread the news about Teaching and Learning with Computers in the classroom. "Keeping us up to date on equipment isn't something you can put a price tag on," says Hovenic. "But it is more than IBM's training on technology. Assessing how the process can work with kids in the classroom is where we derive real value." Parents Get Involved Parental involvement also has increased as a result of the integrated learning model. Since installation, Clear View has had more than 6,500 visitors and a 300% increase in volunteerism, according to Hovenic. During special open houses -- or technology nights -- parents write electronic letters in their child's portfolio. This type of participation has brought parents closer to their child's learning, leading to more understanding and interaction. So, what d'es the future hold for Clear View and Chula Vista? Continuing use of new products that combine different learning tools and more integration of technology into the curriculum planning process are the first steps. School officials currently are examining the benefits of SchoolVista, an instructional management system that provides teachers with the tools to facilitate curriculum integration and lesson planning. The new package will complement and extend TLC's reach, advancing Ginger Hovenic's original vision even further. "This system is helping us develop diverse curriculums for the new world, not only for current students but also future generations. If we can balance the current model with new technology and effective instruction, our approach will yield tremendous results for years to come for all children."

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.