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Embedding technology into our core work at AAD

Students at the Achievement Academy of Durham (AAD) are preparing for the GRE from home, collaborating in online classrooms, and learning about Selma, the moon and more, thanks to a grant from The Forest at Duke.

The grant funded the purchase of 12 tablets, subscriptions to online resources, and professional development for staff. The leadership at AAD believes that these new resources not only will help students complete their GED, but also help them become more well-rounded employees in the future.

“Access to current technology, whether it be hardware or software, is crucial to our student’s success in both post-secondary work and in jobs and careers,” said AAD executive director Nancy Cox.

One subscription made possible by the grant is to i-Pathways, an online GED prep course which students can access any time, from anywhere. The program is especially beneficial to students who face transportation challenges or are kept home by their responsibilities as parents.

Teacher Kate Carayol points out that i-Pathways also offers a learning environment that is more suitable for some students, including one she works with. “She does better with computer activities than paper and pencil, and it is easy for me to monitor the quality of her work. She is also more open to working with tutors using this program than traditional paper and pencil, which benefits her greatly.”

Additionally, the grant provided for online subscriptions to Junior Scholastic and Newsela, which provide high-interest news and nonfiction articles at various reading levels, along with quizzes to assess comprehension.

Allie Brown, Americorps Member and coordinator of Starting Points, AAD’s Literacy program, appreciates having easy access to information that interests students. One student, she explains, hadn’t heard of the Selma to Montgomery March,  so she “went straight to Newsela, searched for ‘Selma,’ and a very clear, level-appropriate article with a picture came up. It’s nice to have a reliable source for basic history and current events.”

And a science class studying the planets became more engaging, said teacher Brett Coonley, when students were able to use the tablets to get quick answers to questions like “How long does it take to get to the moon?”

Brown also likes the reports Newsela sends when students earn 100% on an assignment. “It’s a good opportunity to praise the students for their hard work,” she says.

The grant is also impacting how teachers and students communicate and collaborate. It funded staff development, including training on software like “Remind Me,” a program that allows teachers to send text messages that students are responsible for checking on a daily basis. Teachers also learned to use Google Classroom. Through this online platform, teachers can assign school work, post messages, encourage discussion groups, list events on a shared calendar and share resources, allowing students to collaborate around shared documents.

And these programs provide experience that will benefit students beyond the walls of AAD. Said executive director Cox, “Technology is integrated into every part of our lives so embedding it into our daily operations is essential.  In addition, content delivered through quality programs engages learners while catering to individual academic needs, personal interests and learning styles.”

AAD Director

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