In an effort to extend learning beyond the traditional school day, some elementary schools now provide access to educational software at local grocery stores so students can learn while their parents shop.

The project—called CyberLane—is a partnership between elementary schools, Publix Groceries, and software maker NCS Learn. So far, a handful of schools in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia offer grocery-store access to educational software so students can hone their reading and math skills.

“With the focus on student achievement in Georgia, as in other states, it’s important to take learning outside of the school,” said Stephen Dolinger, superintendent of Georgia’s Fulton County Schools. “And we will take advantage of any opportunity to make it fun.”

Once students register to participate in the CyberLane program, they receive a CyberLane card that enables them to use computers set up at local Publix Groceries stores to complete homework assignments and access the school’s NCS Learn SuccessMaker software.

“It’s a good product, and it’s one that’s in our schools,” Dolinger said. The software offers individualized instruction, so once students log on they can work through the program at their own pace, he said.

When students come to the grocery store with their parents, they sign in to use computers at the store’s customer service desk. Parents must leave their driver’s license and car keys. Then, the child and parents are issued walkie-talkies so they can communicate with each other.

The educational software is only available to students after school hours. During the school day, Publix Groceries allows its employees to use the computer equipment to learn English as a second language.

In Fulton County, Spalding Drive Elementary and Woodland Charter Elementary are the main schools involved in the CyberLane program, Dolinger said, but children from other schools also are invited to register and participate.

NCS Learn donated the software and training, and Publix donated the space in the grocery store. The PTA at Spalding Drive Elementary raised money to provide four computers at its local Publix, whereas Woodland used a charter school grant to buy three computers for its neighborhood store.

“Space is an issue for a supermarket, but [company executives] saw this as a way to reach out to the community. It would also benefit their employees,” said Noris Price, principal of Woodland Charter Elementary School, who worked with Publix for a year before the project was approved.

“We use the software during the school day, so this was just a natural way of extending learning,” Price said. “It shows students that learning doesn’t just happen in a school house during the school day.”

Price said her school has used NCS Learn software for three years and has found that the programs make a positive difference. “We have seen—and we have data that show—students who have used it for a year or more do show academic improvement,” Price said.

Since the CyberLane program was set up in November, Price said, approximately five to 10 students use the software for 30 minutes each evening. The school’s technology specialist checks on the computers at the grocery stores once a week.

Taking learning into the grocery store also provides parents—especially those with limited English skills—with the opportunity to see their children do school work.

“An unseen benefit is that the parents can actually be there to watch their child learn,” said Steve Gardner, vice president of marketing and business development for NCS Learn. “Most of these parents work during the day and don’t have the opportunity to come into the class and observe what their kids work on. Here, they can.”

Schools interested in starting the CyberLane project in their neighborhood can contact NCS Learn. “Because the profiles and needs of each district are different, we packaged the model and made it available to all of our sales reps. If it fits the needs of their customers, they then work with them to set it up at the local level,” Gardner said.


Fulton County Schools

NCS Learn