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Online program offered

June 15, 2011

Staff photo/Karen Campbell Kaitlin Krebs, Sherry Zhao and Mallory Liles demonstrate the Odyssey Web site at Wapakoneta Elementary School.

Lack of funding is preventing Wapakoneta City Schools from offering its traditional summer school to students who may need the extra assistance.
While looking for a less costly alternative, a free online program was found that would provide opportunities for students of all levels to practice skills on which they can improve throughout the summer.
“Odyssey allows all our students to work at their own pace on material that is appropriate for them,” said Carrie Knoch, the district’s gifted intervention, gifted coordination and literacy coach, who is overseeing the program.
Based on a test of skills taken by students the first time they log in, activities focus on grade level areas where intervention is needed as well as extra challenges for those above grade level work. Odyssey is available to all students with activities tailored to meet their learning needs.
It is being offered by Wapakoneta City Schools to students starting at the kindergarten level.
No software needs to be
downloaded to a computer to participate, children simply login to the Odyssey website where all of the activities can be completed. Most of the activities are in the form of games or video clips, with the skills explained to students who can then practice them.
The program can be accessed through any computer any where with an Internet connection. For those without a computer at home, Odyssey can be accessed by signing up for computer time at the local library.
Demonstrating how simple Odyssey is for students, third-graders Kaitlin Krebs, Mallory Liles and Sherry Zhao, were logged in and actively engaged before classes were out for the summer at Wapakoneta Elementary School.
The three girls completed assessment tests, picked areas of focus and were working on assignments and tests, as well as played games which taught different skills, in a variety of different subjects. Odyssey tells those using it what to do and they can opt to read instructions as well.
Knoch is suggesting students aim for 15 minutes a day or an average of an hour a week spent working on the program.
“It doesn’t need to be time intensive,” Knoch said. “It’s a way to combat against the lag every student experiences during the summer.”
While Knoch admits that she’d still prefer to have all the children who need extra help in the building working with her during the summer months, she’s hoping the online summer program will be the next best thing.
She said the advantage of the online program is that anyone can use it and benefit from it. In the past, average and enrichment students weren’t given the opportunity.
“It’s quality instruction and costs the district nothing,” Knoch said of Odyssey, which was offered through the Auglaize County Educational Service Center.
“It’s almost a Godsend,” she said. “I was so worried we would not be able to provide some type of intervention and now we can reach more students in a variety of subjects, even music and art.”
Odyssey also includes a way for parents and teachers to track students’ progress or for Knoch to contact them if she can see they are struggling with something.
“It’s not something we’re making mandatory for students, but it is highly suggested,” Knoch said of the summer program, which she will monitor throughout its duration.
Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said summer school in the district in the past has been offered to a broad range of students needing the additional assistance. This year because of funding concerns, it was offered only to those who have failed the third-grade reading test twice.
While fewer students may be able to participate in traditional summer learning lessons as in years past, Horner said he is excited about the opportunities the online program offers to even more of the district’s students.
“For all students the web-based learning experience allows them to keep up with their skills and gives them a great start to next year,” Horner said.
The savings for the district with the change in offerings throughout the summer is between $15,000 and $20,000.
“The big advantage we see is that it’s open to all kids,” said Horner, who hoped that 80 percent of the district’s students would participate in the online learning program this summer.
To date, more than 110 children from Wapakoneta Elementary School voluntarily have signed up for the program.

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