By Joe Crozier
Online resources from the Area Education Agency are becoming increasingly useful to students and teachers. Students in the seven-county service area of Grant Wood AEA tapped into quality Internet resources more than 2.6 million times last year. Four years before that, most students didn’t have these resources at all.
In 2008, Iowa’s AEAs negotiated a program with various online data sources to offer a statewide set of dynamic, up-to-the-minute, online educational resources to all of the schools in Iowa. These online educational resources give schools access to reliable tools for students of every age and across the curriculum.
In keeping with the underlying reason for having an AEA system, this service helps equalize the opportunities for learning available at both the largest and the smallest school districts in the state. Students can access the content
24 hours a day, seven days a week, from any Internet-accessible computer — at school or at home.
The AEAs provide 13 dynamic educational resources through Iowa AEA Online (www.iowaaeaonline.org). These resources offer students access to a wealth of information for assignments, classroom projects as well as personal interest. The resources of Iowa AEA Online are provided and funded by Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs). These websites are available to students and teachers on a 24/7 basis through a password-protected site.
In addition to providing up-to-date technology resources for students and teachers, the online resources are a cost-effective arrangement on behalf of schools. If all school buildings in Iowa purchased the Iowa AEA Online services individually, the annual licensing fees would cost approximately $36 per student. Instead, the annual outlay for these services purchased by Iowa’s AEAs is $3.15 per student. That’s a savings for schools in the Grant Wood AEA service area alone of about $2.3 million.
The Iowa AEA Online resources include Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, AEA Digital Library, AP Images, Atomic Learning, BookFLIX, CultureGrams, GALE, iCLIPART For Schools, LEARN360, SIRS Issues Researcher, soundzabound, Teen Health & Wellness, and TrueFlix.
Grant Wood AEA also offers and funds three additional resources for schools in our service area: EBSCOhost, FollettShelf and netTrekker.
When accessing any of these online resources, students use the information skills of finding, evaluating and using information, technology skills, and literacy skills in reading, analysis, and problem solving. The online resources are important tools for students to use and understand, and provides them with lifelong skills in accessing different curricular areas.
Since 2008, use of the online resources by schools in the Grant Wood AEA service area has been fairly consistent. During the 2011-12 school year, use exceeded expectations by increasing 544 percent. We believe this significant increase can be attributed to a number of factors including Grant Wood AEA now provides professional development training for educators and support activities for districts in the use of the online resources across the curriculum.
The information accessible via AEA Online supports the Common Core/Iowa Core and Response to Intervention (RtI).
On July 29, 2010, the State Board of Education voted to adopt the Common Core State Standards as part of the Iowa Core. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a voluntary state-led effort to develop common expectations among the states for what students should learn from kindergarten through high school. The standards cover the areas of English language arts and mathematics and require teachers to assist with students’ literacy development.
The online resources also fit well with Response to Intervention, a process by which teachers and school administrators use data to identify the academic and behavioral supports each student needs to be successful in school and to leave school ready for life.
The resources provided by AEA Online help students hone their skills in using web-based information and computer technology. These abilities are considered a key part of the Iowa Core’s 21st Century skills each student is expected to achieve.
l Joe Crozier of Cedar Rapids is chief administrator of Grant Wood Area Education Agency, which provides instructional and school management services for 32 school districts and 22 approved non-public schools in Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, and Washington counties. Comments: email@example.com
For more information about the different resources offered by AEA Online, go to http://bit.ly/ia_aea_online or contact Grant Wood AEA, (319) 399-6700, (800) 332-8488 or www.gwaea.org.