Courses in Microsoft Office Available At All Onslow High Schools
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Diane Johnson instructs an IT class at NHS
Diane Johnson instructs an IT class at NHS
Microsoft IT Academy teaches advanced skills using the Microsoft platform in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Publisher and Microsoft Excel and Access.

Courses in Microsoft Office available at all Onslow high schools


SUZANNE ULBRICH, Jacksonville Daily News 

(PHOTO: John Althouse/The Daily News...Diane Johnson instructs an IT class at NHS)

Currently enrolled in Microsoft Excel 2010 at Northside High School, Alex Harkleroad successfully received national certifications in Word 2010 and PowerPoint 2010 through the school last semester.

"I learned a lot in Word," said the sophomore. "I've done lab reports in biology class and used what I learned to do that. I want to be some kind of engineer so I'm probably going to use Excel - I'm learning a lot."

All Onslow County high school students now have the opportunity to learn and receive certifications in Microsoft Office programs.

Through a partnership with Microsoft, following a successful pilot of the program at Northside High School last semester, each high school is implementing the Microsoft IT Academy this semester using the most up-to-date software available, said Joan McGinnis, director of Career and Technical Education-Secondary Education.

"We've revised the existing Computer Applications I with this course," she said. "Certain components remain, but it was a major revision; the new program focuses on particular segments so you can go more in depth."

Microsoft IT Academy teaches advanced skills using the Microsoft platform in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Publisher and Microsoft Excel and Access.

"After successful completion of the curriculums, students can earn Microsoft nationally-recognized certifications through a partnership with Certiport," McGinnis said.

Each of the seven high schools are also Certiport testing sites, so at the conclusion of the courses students can sit for a test, free of charge, to receive certifications in Word 2010, PowerPoint 2010, Excel 2010, and Access 2010.

"Since our kids are very transient here, that certification remains the same no matter where they go," McGinnis said.

These are certifications adults are pursuing, emphasized Madeline Tucker, the Onslow County Schools instructional management coordinator.

"This tells the prospective employer what the kid can really do," she said. "Our largest enrollment in the district is in the business education field.  We do this in other programs, but this is the first major thrust in the business area."

The partnership also brings training and resources to teachers courtesy of Microsoft, McGinnis said.

"In order for Onslow County Schools to do this it still took a financial investment ... and our teachers had to make a commitment ... they have stepped up to the plate," she said.

North Carolina is the first state to employ Microsoft IT Academy statewide, making it the largest implementation of the program to date. All 628 public high schools in the state are expected to offer the classes in time for the 2011-12 school year.

"This helps students with critical thinking, so it is really raising the bar, and we are preparing them for a global economy," Tucker said.

"With a giant like Microsoft willing to come in and say we will provide these tools to your students, that's a win-win for everybody," said McGinnis.

"We could not have done this on the magnitude without that partnership with Microsoft and Certiport," she said.

Northside High School Microsoft IT Academy students are the only ones taking Excel and Access this semester with Diane Johnson, the career and technical education instructor who piloted the program with students last semester. She is also supporting other instructors district-wide as they negotiate through their training.

"I like it; it's been very time consuming, but I don't give up until I can give my students the best I can give," she said. "It's a challenge for teachers - I spend an extra 10-20 hours a week on this."

Out of 39 students taking the course with Johnson last semester, 30 received PowerPoint 2010 certifications and 17 received Word 2010 certifications.

"(Word 2010) was hard for them," she said. "They had to get used to taking a hands on timed test, and it was the hardest test. Now the teachers are given more time to teach Word because it needed more time."

Before he enrolled in Excel, Tre Styles, a sophomore, estimated he knew about five percent of the program's capabilities.

"It was very new," said Styles, who wants to be a computer engineer. "I'm learning a lot. It's been a good experience and it's very different than my other classes. And I think it's great to use new technology that other students don't get to learn. In biology, we had to create charts, and I knew a more advanced way."

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