Communications | News
California High School Credits Technology with Improving Educational Experience
New Millennium Secondary School (NMSS) of Carson, CA, has reported that its use of Web-based communications management system eChalk has resulted in improved student and teacher communication and greater parental involvement in the education process.
The public charter school was founded in 2008 as part of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to help prepare its predominantly black student population for both higher education and the competitive workforce in the 21st century. Technology is a critical tool for the school in fulfilling its mission, said NMSS Executive Director Tony Kline, and eChalk is an important part of that technology.
"It helps our kids understand what it'll take to succeed in college," Kline explained, "because it helps them understand the nuts and bolts of what they need to do to stay on track (turn in work on time, stay current with workload and schedule items, etc.) at the next level, i.e., higher education."
Principal Kim Irons expanded on Kline's assessment of the software's role in the school's efforts to prepare students for higher education, saying, "They're able to connect with teachers throughout the day, even outside school hours. It just gives the students a more well rounded experience, similar to what they'll experience in college. Professors are doing more and more through e-mail and Web 2.0, and less through office hours. I think the more our students learn using technology, the more prepared they'll be."
Kline specifically praised eChalk's communication tools, including teacher and student home pages, online learning communities, and calendars and schedules, "It allows us to keep in regular communication with our kids, and it allows us [to maintain] exceptional transparency. Parents know what is expected of their kids several months out," he explained.
The software's ease of access for parents has evoked positive feedback from those who genuinely want to play an active part in their children's education but have had difficulty doing so in the past. "Using eChalk is like checking in with online banking," said Candice Arnold, parent of a 10th-grade student at NMSS. "The parent portal lets me know exactly what assignments my daughter is working on in real time."
A recent Gallup public opinion poll on the future of public education in the United States indicated that, if schools are going to improve and graduates are going to remain competitive in the global workforce, in addition to teachers becoming better educated and more innovative, parents must play a more active role. Kline said NMSS has made parental involvement one of its priorities.
The school's technology focus, Kline said, has also resulted in some favorable results at a more rudimentary level. "What I'm really proud of about this school is that we were able to find a financial recipe to have a 1:1 computer ratio, with Internet access, for only $350 per student. And we're able to do it all without private money."
Finally, Irons noted the improved opportunities for individual study that come with the enhanced access to technology. "We've been really lucky to access online learning programs. Students have been able to get online and really drill themselves in the areas where they really needed improvement," she said, "and teachers have been better able to tailor learning to individual needs. And that has been due to the computers and the online access."
Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.