Bedford, MA Jan 25, 2007 Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. (www.kurzweiledu.com), a member of Cambium Learning Technologies, is pleased to announce the successful culmination of one teacher´s efforts to secure and implement Kurzweil 3000(R) in her high school, leading to improved test scores and student independence. Her success is seen as example of technology integration that is being encouraged statewide through new Tech for Learning trainings offered by the Arizona Department of Education.
A Woman with a Mission
Mary Hinson is Job Developer, Instructor, and Transition Specialist at Catalina Magnet School in Tucson, Arizona–an inner-city school with approximately 1,500 students from 48 countries, speaking 43 languages. Catalina has one of the highest, most diverse populations of students in the state, with nearly 300 students identified as Special Needs, and an additional 300 English Language Learners. Hinson´s focus is helping high school juniors and seniors with special needs successfully transition from secondary school to college or the workplace.
As part of her job, she regularly visits local colleges and companies to see how she can best prepare her students to succeed in their new environments. Hinson observed that while there were a number of excellent resources for graduating students, including Pima Community College and the University of Arizona´s SALT Center (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center), students were often not sufficiently motivated or lacked the time to take advantage of them.
Both institutions were promoting the use of Kurzweil 3000, a versatile reading and writing software program. As Hinson learned more about the program, she became convinced that introducing Kurzweil 3000 to her high school students would ease their transition to college or the workplace.
Hinson was determined to provide her special education students with the same technology they would encounter after graduation. As a first step, she established a collaborative relationship with Pima Community College and the SALT Center to promote the use of programs like Kurzweil 3000 to students and teachers at Catalina.
Hinson describes herself as a go-getter. "Once I make up my mind to do something, I don´t stop until I achieve it." Her philosophy–"No, never means no"–has paid off. "I keep knocking on doors," Hinson explains, "until I find the right resource." By sheer perseverance, she has been able to raise over $1.5 million dollars in funding for her various initiatives.
Kurzweil Teaching Excellence Software Award Winner
To further her mission of getting Kurzweil technology into her school, Hinson applied for and won a Kurzweil Teaching Excellence Software Award given to K-12 teachers committed to integrating technology into their curriculum to help students with learning disabilities reach their potential. As an award winner, she received two copies of Kurzweil 3000, a scanner, and a full day of training.
After the training, Hinson had little difficulty convincing Catalina´s principal to purchase additional Kurzweil 3000 licenses so that more students could use the software. She then persuaded the head of Information Technology for Tucson Unified School District to supply the additional computers. Once the technology was in place, Hinson was able to secure funds from the district to train a handful of special education teachers as well as the head of Information Technology on the use of Kurzweil 3000.
A Dream Realized
By February 2006, Kurzweil 3000 was up and running on 20 computers housed in the computer lab and available to students at all times. Hinson made the judicious decision of using the lab to teach her daily English classes so her students could learn to use Kurzweil 3000 as they worked on their assignments. In addition to helping struggling readers, Hinson found the program´s study skills toolbar to be particularly helpful in teaching students to track different types of text, organize their ideas, and turn highlighted text into working outlines.
Soon after Kurzweil 3000 was installed, Hinson got permission for students who had Kurzweil 3000 written into their Independent Education Plans (IEPs) to use the software to take their AIMS (Arizona´s Instrument to Measure Standards) test. Simply by using Kurzweil 3000, several students made impressive gains in their scores.
One student was able to raise her reading scores from "falls far below" to "meets the standards"–a gain of 300 points. As news of this initial success spread, more and more of Hinson´s students started to use Kurzweil 3000 for all of their subjects. It was not unusual, Hinson recalls, to be stopped by a colleague who wanted her to know that students who were getting low Cs were now getting Bs on papers and quizzes.
Even more important than grades, from Hinson´s perspective, was the fact that her students were functioning more independently and were more self- assured and at ease. "I can´t emphasize the importance of this," Hinson remarked, "because so many students with special needs are constantly anxious that won´t be able to perform. Kurzweil 3000 has given them the confidence they need."
Most students, Hinson recounts, are hard workers, but because of their learning challenges, their grades often do not reflect their effort or their knowledge. Kurzweil 3000 opened a door to a whole new level of understanding and competency. As one student remarked, "If I had Kurzweil all during high school, I could have learned so much more."
Taking it to the Next Level
Hinson then planned for equipment needs for the fall of 2006. In addition to the 20 computers in the lab, she identified science, social studies, math, foreign language, English, and ELL classrooms to place two or more computers with Kurzweil 3000. While initially focusing on students with special needs, she wanted to give any student who needed it immediate access to the curriculum.
Finally, Hinson shared her students´ successes with her principal, district superintendent, SALT and Pima partners, as well as with Froma Cummings at the Arizona Department of Education.
Cummings, Director of Assistive Technology and Textbook Accessibility for the state of Arizona, recalls meeting some of Hinson´s students. "My main concern is making technology available to students who need it," Cummings remarked, "and so I was delighted with the progress Hinson´s students had made. My real satisfaction, however, was in seeing how technology had changed the way these students felt about themselves."
She was touched by how Hinson´s students supported each other and saying such things as, "I used to think I was dumb, but now I know I´m really smart." or "I never picked up a book unless I had to, but now I love to read."
Encouraging Hinson to share her success with the broader community by presenting at regional and national conferences, Cummings noted that successes like Hinson´s can help teachers see how the right tools can dramatically improve students´ grades and their belief in themselves as learners. She hopes that other Arizona schools will be inspired to participate in the new Tech for Learning trainings offered by the Arizona Department of Education.
Arizona schools interested in integrating Assistive Technology, Universal Design for Learning, and Educational Technology into their curriculum can become Tech for Learning Communities and receive special training and ongoing coaching. This pilot program is designed to increase the number of "technologically savvy" professionals who in turn can assist and recruit others. "We´re all about capacity building," says Cummings, "and teachers like Mary Hinson are our best examples of what we hope to attain statewide."
About Cambium Learning Technologies
The technology division of Cambium Learning, Cambium Learning Technologies comprises IntelliTools, Inc., Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., and Acceleration Station. IntelliTools (www.intellitools.com) has been a leading provider of technology that helps students learn to their fullest potential, especially K-8 students who use assistive technology, have individualized education programs (IEPs), have limited English proficiency, or are generally struggling to achieve. Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. (www.kurzweiledu.com) is widely recognized as an innovator and leading provider of reading and writing software for individuals with learning difficulties and for those who are blind. It provides high-quality assistive technology to people who face obstacles in accessing the printed word, enabling them to lead more independent lives. Acceleration Station provides online standards- aligned testing and assessment for at-risk K-12 students.