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‘Study Island’ arrives in Lynn

LYNN – Third, fourth and fifth grade students at the Julia Callahan Elementary School have another resource in the fight to conquer the state’s MCAS testing, thanks to a new interactive, incentive-based computer program set up by the school this month.After months of negotiating, troubleshooting and organization, the school has become a part of the Texas-based “Study Island” Internet education community, which offers web-based state assessment test preparation programs, as well as standard-based learning activities.Working in conjunction with the classroom curriculum, Study Island provides a wide variety of multiple-choice questions in both math and English language arts to help students prepare for questions and content featured on the MCAS test.Colorful graphics and examples accompany the questions, and students can work toward downloading educational computer games by solving problems and answering correctly. When a student gets a question wrong, the program offers suggestions and will eventually explain why the answer was wrong if the participant continues to have problems. The Web site can even tell if a student is guessing or not paying attention when they are answering the questions.Teachers have complete access to everything the student does while using the program, and can monitor progress and lower the level of difficulty if a child is having trouble.Perhaps the most helpful component of the program is the ability for students to access the Web site anywhere, and communicate with their teachers via email when school is not in session. Study Island is tied to a subscription-based Web site, so students can access the activities from any computer, anywhere with just a school-issued password.Principal Ed Turmenne says the program has been a very effective motivator for the students, and teachers have also had a good response because they can individualize learning for each student and stay in constant contact if a question needs to be answered.”We used to think kickball was the great motivator,” Turmenne said. “But when computers came along? I don’t know one student that doesn’t love using that computer.”The school offers students two days of in-school time using the program each week, along with an after school session on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but students have clung to the program more quickly than teachers anticipated, and are spending much of their free time at home answering questions and communicating with teachers.”I honestly didn’t think they would (want to use it at home), I thought it would just be something they would use here,” said computer lab teacher Pam Perritti. “We are all very surprised with the out-of-school activity. Kids come in and ask when they get to use the program, and they are asking to go on the computer at home, voluntarily.”Although it is much too early to detect any improvement in the students, both Turmenne and Perritti are singing the praises of Study Island because it provides an opportunity for every student to improve MCAS scores, especially those who do not respond as well to one-on-one tutoring.”It is just another way of presenting the same information, but it is a motivating way,” said Perritti. “It provides a different type of instruction, because some students learn better this way than with regular classroom instruction.”Thanks to money from the school’s business partner, the King’s Lynne Apartments on O’Callaghan Way, and continued support from Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr., Turmenne says the school is signed up with the subscription web service for the next two years, which he hopes will produce a marked improvement in the scores on the state standardized test.”We haven’t noticed much of an improvement because it is much too early,” he said. “But from all indications early on, it looks like something the students are really going to stick with.”

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