MECHA Expands into Four States
Project MECHA (Migrant Education Consortium for Higher Achievement), which operates from the Homestead area of Florida, uses cost-effective Web-TV to keep students connected and to bridge the gap between the classroom and students' changing locations.
MECHA is a large project, and is still committed to its original objective of ultimately serving up to 500 students in grades 3-12. MECHA provides an Individualized Lesson Plan (ILP) for each student. The ILP includes demographic information, placement and skill level, health concerns, and sometimes teacher comments and recommendations. The LEPs are online and can be accessed by teachers in receiving States (through coded access, to protect student privacy). The website also provides teachers with lesson plans identified to teach specific competencies and skills.
Staying in touch with Florida teachers and with others is a big part of MECHA. The MECHA system has now expanded to support students traveling to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. MECHA teachers in Florida stay in touch with teachers in these States.
In addition to making communications between students, teachers and families easy, Web-TV brings access to the World Wide Web. Two-way interactive video and CD-ROM based programs are also used extensively in MECHA. MECHA teachers receive extensive training in technology used and other teaching techniques.
Online mentors are part of the MECHA experience as well. The project leaders have tried to incorporate many resources to serve their objective of keeping students connected and enthusiastic about learning. The students are recruited from the migrant community based on need for supplemental help, and preference is given to students returning from partner schools.
ESTRELLA makes anytime, anywhere learning Rral
Secondary students home-based in the Rio Grande Valley and Winter Garden areas of Texas who migrate with their families to Illinois, Montana and New York benefit from the opportunity to continue their course work even as they migrate.
Migrant educators from these States created ESTRELLA (Encouraging Students Through Technology to Reach High Expectations in Learning, Lifeskills, and Achievement) to assist these students who often leave their homebase school in early spring and do not return until late fall in earning credits and meeting requirements for high school graduation. Students now leave school equipped with a state-of-the-art laptop computer, loaded with all the software they need to complete their courses, begin new learning projects and stay connected. This project has a clear goal- to enlist technology, families, educators and the migrant community to increase the high school graduation rate and change the life choices for migrant students. This project offers perhaps the closest vision of what the 21st Century virtual high school or school without walls may look like.
ESTRELLA reflects a focus on exactly what traveling students need. The commitment of families results in time and space for learning (family members can learn as well). Summer programs in receiving States provide direct support and guidance. A 1-800 number and Internet access to connect online, makes learning possible at any site. An interstate coordinator, based in Texas, stays in touch with the students and oversees technology maintenance and upgrade. High school counselors approve courses available through the NovaNET system. Extensive professional development gives teachers new tools and new ways to utilize technology to support students. A student newsletter shares written work and ideas.
Cyber mentors are college students who go online to give encouragement about planning for college. They help the migrant students in the field realize that they have choices about their future, but that choice requires planning and working hard. An annual event that brings students to campus to meet their cyber mentors is both festive and challenging for students who are likely to be the first in their family to seriously consider and actually enter college. ESTRELLA has expanded the number of school districts involved and may add additional States.
inTIME explores options
Oregon's 23,000 plus migrant students travel largely within Oregon, working many crops and assisting in forestry and fishing operations. Oregon also has a large population of mobile students who are not migrant, and recently adopted new standards for achieving competence and mastery of school subjects.
InTIME (Integrating Technology Into Migrant Education) is exploring a number of ways technology can improve learning opportunities and build connections within the State. In March of 2000 InTIME completed a review of all the technology components, and is now considering emphasis for the remainder of the project. The knowledge developed in the first three years will lead to a more focused effort.
The components being tested are:
- Computer Adaptive Testing - A Spanish language placement system for mathematics skills in grades 3-10.
- Instructional Uses of Software and the Internet - Tested in school districts.
- Wirelessly Networked Collaborative Notetaking - Laptops and trained notetakers provide language and other help in the classroom.
- NovaNET Online Secondary Courses - A lignment of online courses with Oregon content standards and benchmarks allows online learning.
- Mathemagica - Middle school math homework help once a week via public access television.
- CIM Summer School - Intensive support for writing activities to help students meet the requirements for Certificate of Initial Mastery.
- Ready to Learn - Oregon Public Broadcasting workshops for families of young children, to teach media literacy and increase learning in the home.
- OMSIS - Statewide computer system tracks student records.
- Web Site and Social Service Network - Information about each of the InTIME activities and a searchable database of service organizations.
KMTP expands and creates innovative courses
Kentucky's migrant population moves largely within the State. The Kentucky Migrant Technology Project (KMTP) operates through many technology applications, educational and community structures, and people to reach migrant students and improve their academic achievement. This project also seeks out school dropouts, who have proven a harder group to assist.
KMTP has been enterprising in developing products such as CD-ROMs and other materials in Spanish and in English, to meet immediate and fundamental needs in the school environment. Summer programs in community settings deliver both recreation and education. A Website offers products and information in several areas. Age and skill specific software used by staff and educators is delivering challenging content through multimedia applications.
Because of recent changes in the size of the Spanish-speaking community in Kentucky, KMTP has become a repository of information and resources for school districts across the State. Formally, the project has now expanded beyond its original service district into eight new counties. Beyond the schools, contacts with the community are supported by student family educators, who help build a bridge between home and school.
An innovation that offers great promise for the future is a set of online courses that can make education and learning a seamless, intuitive process. KMTP developed courses that utilize Internet-based technologies in conjunction with national education standards and goals. Teacher-developed lessons and activities build upon rich content found on the Internet. Serving students and teachers alike, these courses make access to learning a challenge and a pleasure. They can be accessed by someone who wants to take an entire course, brush up on a course component, or even by a teacher suddenly called to teach in a new field. By harnessing the power of the Internet to high-quality learning criteria, KMTP has broken new ground for the migrant community.
Anchor School's Lifeline Holding
The Anchor School provides both a technological lifeline and a human Instructional Support Team that travels with migrant students home-based in Collier Country, Florida. This project uses technology in new and innovative ways to create a high-tech, high-touch, highly visible support system for kids traveling within the Southeast.
A unique feature of Anchor School is its relationship with Gargiulo, Inc., one of the largest employers of migrant farmworkers in the Nation. Gargiulo is an original partner and strong supporter of Anchor School, offering in-kind contributions of staff time, advice, coordination and equipment.
Anchor School has set high standards for interstate coordination by not only working closely with receiving States, but creating a database that allows for correlation of teaching materials with State standards for Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Through the efforts of NASA, also a partner, students have attended Space Camp and been part of other exciting activities. Anchor School provides extensive professional development and is moving to portfolio assessments. Family involvement is also a strong program component.
Technology choices have increased over the course of the project; take-home computers are now available for many families. A specially configured online system keeps teachers, staff, and families in touch.
Americorps Volunteers, teachers, college students, staff, and other dedicated professionals make up the Instructional Support Teams, which follow the students on their travels each summer to make sure that everything works together.
Anchor School has continually built upon experience and adopted promising approaches. Online mentoring is under active consideration, and new people and groups continue to offer support in response to the enthusiasm and effectiveness that radiates from this project.