Technical skills needed in the future
by ELSIE HODNETT
Pell City High School teacher Hannah Parris and student Ali Bradford participate in the new Alabama Microsoft IT Academy program, which helps students receive technical skills needed to succeed in college and the workforce.
The new Alabama Microsoft IT Academy program is helping local students receive the 21st Century technical skills needed to succeed in both college and future careers.

“Pell City High School students are participating in the pilot program for the Microsoft IT Academy,” said Kim Williams, curriculum coordinator for the Pell City school system.

Williams said the purpose of the program, a partnership between the Alabama State Department of Education and the Microsoft Corporation, is to help students improve their technological skills by focusing on Microsoft Products such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

“The teacher utilizing this program, Hannah Parris, is pleased with the number and quality of curriculum resources available through this program,” Williams said. “She believes access to such quality products will certainly provide students with the opportunities they need to further develop their technological skills.”

Williams said the students particularly enjoy the graphics and the self-paced learning format of the curriculum.

“The State’s provision of this program provides Pell City High School students with access to resources that would not be available without the State’s partnership with Microsoft,” she said. “At the end of the pilot program, the State plans to expand the Microsoft IT Academy for the 2013-2014 school year, and Pell City High School plans to participate at the maximum capacity allowed so students and teachers will continue to have access to this relevant and important resource.”

Douglas Campbell, superintendent of the Talladega City school system, said Pattie Mayne, business/marketing instructor in the Career Technical Program at Talladega High School, has been trained and will implement the Microsoft IT Academy for the Talladega City schools.

“This program allows our students to keep pace with changing technology and curriculum demands through rich online resources, assist educators with professional development opportunities, and links academic learning to real-world technology skills required by today’s job market,” he said.

Campbell said through the Microsoft IT Academy, the Talladega City School’s Career Tech Center has access to e-learning courses, e-reference library, with more than 120 titles from Microsoft Press, special discount pricing on vouchers for Microsoft Office Specialist Exams and other certification exams, numerous lesson plans and marketing resources.

“Through the IT Academy, the Talladega City School’s Career Technical Center Program has received up to 35 licenses of Microsoft Office 2010, access to over 1,500 e-learning courses, access to the e-reference library, lesson plans and project activities, supplemental resources, Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) practice tests to assist with credentialing, and MOS test vouchers,” he said. “The educational value of the IT Academy is approximately $50,000 with no direct cost to Phase I pilot participants. I would like to thank Trish Turner, Career Tech Center Director, Pattie Mayne, Business/Marketing Instructor, and John Locklin, Technology Coordinator, for their efforts in helping our students gain a competitive edge in the job market.”

Brandon Brown, business education teacher at Winterboro High School, said students were already being taught Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

“But now they can take a certification test and receive a credential that will be useful on resumes,” he said. “We plan to start testing next spring, if everything works out.”

Brown said there is normally a cost to take the test, but as a pilot school the students are able to take the test for free.

“This is a huge benefit for graduating seniors,” he said. “With the credential, it will help them in the job market in the long run.”

Christie Caine, career technical education director for the Sylacauga City school system, said the Microsoft IT Academy is a great opportunity to help students become ready for college or the workforce.

“We are using it at the high school, teaching three classes this semester and three classes next semester,” she said.

Caine said the MOS certification shows the students have a certain high-level skill set in Microsoft applications of all sorts.

“Career tech wants to prepare students for life after high school by offering a nationally-recognized certification,” she said. “The students really enjoy it—it is very engaging and hands-on.”

Caine said the Microsoft IT Academy supports other curriculum and integrates math, science, English and history.

“It provides students with workforce experience in high school, and helps educators stay up-to-date with what the students need to know to succeed,” she said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Contact Elsie Hodnett at ehodnett@dailyhome.com.

© 2012