New online program meeting CASMAN student needs

MANISTEE — There are times for every school administrator when it just makes sense to take a step that will benefit their students.

For CASMAN Academy director Shelley VanVoorst  that time came after getting feedback from science teacher  Cynthia Corey about the online Dicoveryy.com Techbook she was piloting in her classroom. The response of both the students and Corey made the decision easy to purchase a limited number of seats with the company.

“The purchase is a six-year contract with a one-time payment,” said VanVoorst. “It will include continuous updates to the online book provided throughout the length of the contract and free use of all materials either electronically or to be printed out.”

What clinched the deal for VanVoorst was the report she got back from Corey on the students’ reaction to the online program.

“Many of the students are finding the materials more engaging and more in line with how teenagers think, while still connecting with the standards,” said VanVoorst. “It was more problem solving based, there was more interactive with it. Cynthia will be doing a data set concerning this curriculum and we will review together at the end of the school year to decide if we will switch all of the science classes over.”

A big selling point in the process to VanVoorst, besides the quality of the curriculum, was the constant updates at no extra cost. She said from what they have witnessed it has been getting updated almost every week.

“You don’t get that when you purchase a (regular) textbook or an online one,” said VanVoorst. ” Most of the online ones you purchase you have to pay to get the update every year and with the regular textbooks by the time you are done using it much of the material in it is already outdated.”

VanVoorst they have been using an online program called Edgenuity Plato for a couple of years, but this one offers much more.

“We kind of did a trial with the kids where we ran that one alongside the Discovery one to see how the kids would react to it,” said VanVoorst. “Some kids aren’t good with change. They didn’t want to try it, but the ones who did try it really liked it better and got more out of it.”

The students cited the ability to better interact with the program and make choices as they were moving through it.

“What also is good is the teacher gets to interact with the students more on it and it’s not a total online program,” said VanVoorst. “It is more of a whole class interaction, but the textbook itself is online as all of the stuff that comes with it.”

VanVoorst praised Corey for the way she researched and embraced the new program.

“It will be nice to have this as part of program moving forward to have that research based curriculum in place,” said VanVoorst. “We can even do online labs now and I don’t have to worry that our school is so small that we struggle to get a lot of labs and things like that done to meet the science standards. Watching someone do it online is different and not quite as good as doing it in the classroom, but it is a step better than what we were doing before.”

VanVoorst said they buy seats to access it, which allows her to move students in and out of the program.

“What I see with it is the programming is robust and interesting,” said VanVoorst. “It is engaging and pulls you in. Curriculum at the high school level isn’t always like that in many cases. It is nice to find something nice like this that engages them. It isn’t where you just push a button where a video pops up and then you answer some questions. It is interactive.”

Other positive components are they have the ability to print off certain sections or to adjust it to the types of learners they have in the classroom.

“There are just a lot of options in it that made it very appealing,” said VanVoorst.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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