April 7, 2014

Today, I’m going to shift the focus away from formal education and training. Through a single example, I want to describe how technology learning can be made successfully available to “the family,” and can help liberate the adult members from poverty while increasing parent/child involvement in the school setting (the single most important determinant in a child’s educational progression).

The success-example with which I am most familiar is the program pioneered by DeKalb County (the largest County School System in the State of Georgia) more than a decade ago when I had the good fortune to have worked alongside them during the formative years of their Family Technology Resource Centers (FTRC’s). The success of their FTRC’s is unparalleled and has even gotten the attention of the Smithsonian Institution.

At its core, the educational principle behind an FTRC is based on the learning culture of today’s young parents and their children —- and that means lessons that are rooted in full motion video or animations, optional word-for-word audio, simulations and gaming.

The Family Technology Resource Centers are designed to train, re-train, educate and re-educate family members in school locations scattered throughout the county. In their early years, these FTRC’s:

• Offered instruction, via state-of-the-art technology, in academic (basic skills, GED, reading and math), vocational, and technical areas;
• Expanded the hours that school buildings were open to include evenings and weekends in order to accommodate family needs;
• Provided instruction for preschool through adult needs;
• Offered free child care services by a licensed child care provider;
• Utilized the existing hardware and courseware in the schools, as well as additional resources;
• Prepared parents for productive employment in the world of work;
• Increased student achievement by providing parents an opportunity to improve academic, vocational, and/or technical skills, while encouraging parent-child learning, and increasing time-on-task for all students;

Over 50 years of research has shown that parental involvement in a child’s education does more to positively impact achievement than either parental income or education. In their early years the DeKalb County School System witnessed the following results:

• 77% increase in student school attendance;
• 95% of the students increased their GPA;
• 80% increase in completion of homework assignments;
• 80% reduction in student fighting;
• PTA attendance increased by 70%;
• Parental volunteer services increased up to 100% in all FTRC locations;
• More than two-thirds of the participating parents either gained employment or upgraded their existing positions.

A couple of years after the DeKalb FTRC’s were underway, then-Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin invited me to repeat the DeKalb success in Milwaukee. And, there again, the concept proved itself.

For months, this blog has discussed the dramatic benefits that can be attained in business through the use of technology learning. Our individual communities can also benefit in a variety of ways. The “video learning culture” is firmly entrenched in our society. The quicker we make use of these new technology tools, in both education and training, the more rapid will be our increase in learning. And, isn’t that what this whole discussion is really all about?!?

More on Wednesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning