Tech-Now Inc., Bethany Public Schools

Organization
Organization Name: 
Tech-Now Inc., Bethany Public Schools
Organization Director: 
Rick DeRennaux
Program Name: 
Tech-Now Oklahoma High School/High Tech
Street Address: 
621 Brookwood Drive
City: 
Oklahoma City
State: 
OK
Contact
Contact Person: 
Rick DeRennaux
Contact Title: 
President, Tech-Now Inc.; Director, Oklahoma State High School/High Tech
Contact E-mail: 
Program
Program Summary: 

Tech-Now is a technology-focused program that targets students with disabilities transitioning from high school to postsecondary education or employment. The program is committed to changing the way students with disabilities develop and apply technology skills and prepare for the transition to adult life in the 21st century workplace.

Serving approximately 290 students annually across 29 rural, urban, and suburban school sites throughout Oklahoma, Tech-Now helps young people develop the skills needed to access and utilize cutting-edge technology and explore potential vocational education and employment opportunities. Tech-Now provides real-world technical skills training to students with disabilities through a rigorous, interactive, multimedia-based curriculum designed to develop skills in leadership, team-building, organization, cooperation, creative problem solving, and critical thinking. The goals of Tech-Now are to provide students the opportunity to develop marketable skills, explore potential educational and employment opportunities, acquire specific skills such as teamwork and leadership, and pursue further education and gainful employment.

Specifically, the Tech-Now curriculum provides technology-focused transition and employment preparation that incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities. Students learn to produce video products, radio commercials, animations, desktop-published goods, and product marketing campaigns using research, digital photography, photo-imaging and compositing, multimedia production, engineering and design, and desktop publishing skills. Students participate in brainstorming, planning, revising, and organizational activities to complete the activity products.

Working in teams, students use computer-aided design software to design, engineer, and produce products that they enter in the Tech-Now Annual State Competition. The team approach helps students learn to collaborate in problem solving/critical thinking with peers, experts, and others for the purpose of developing solutions and/or products. Students contribute to a knowledge base to compile, synthesize, revise, and produce effective solution models.

Tech-Now contracts with public school districts and other educational agencies to establish and support in-school classes and after-school programs. Tech-Now’s curriculum is aligned to the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills Objectives for Instructional Technology, allowing it to be offered for high school graduation credit. Students earn course credit for Tech-Now that counts toward high school graduation.

Tech-Now also partners with state and federal agencies and local industries to provide participants with access to industry professionals and knowledgeable adults who help them form connections to the real world. These partnerships are crucial in making the curriculum and training relevant to the demands of the global economy and helping the students develop their vision for the future.

Tech-Now was founded in 1999 with a grant from the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council, in an effort to positively impact the graduation and postsecondary education rates for Oklahoma students with disabilities. It became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in 2003 and has received financial support through the Oklahoma State Department of Education since 2004. Other funding comes from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, and public and private contributions.

In 2003, Tech-Now was awarded a multi-year Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy grant to support expansion of the High School/High Tech program. In 2005, Tech-Now Inc., partnering with the University of Oklahoma’s National Center for Disability Education and Training, was awarded a National Science Foundation STEM grant to engage middle school students in many of the STEM activities Tech-Now has implemented in its High School/High Tech program sites.

To ensure the success of the Tech-Now program, teachers receive in-depth training in advanced computer applications. As a result, teachers learn to enrich both the Tech-Now and their individual content area curriculum, making their instruction more meaningful, interactive, and challenging, thus improving student retention and graduation rates.

Program Structure/Design: 

Tech-Now’s set curriculum helps to ensure quality and rigor at local sites while its innovative multimedia focus supports a wide range of student and instructor learning styles and abilities.

The annual Tech-Now state competition closely mimics the marketplace the students will soon be competing in and helps students see the level of quality needed to succeed in the post-school world. It is also a celebration of achievements and hard work, since the winners are invited to attend an award ceremony held annually in the Oklahoma State Capitol. Winners receive scholarships, cash, and prizes and meet elected officials.

States of Operation: 
OK
ODEP Funded: 
Yes
Profile Year: 
2010
Innovative Practices
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: 

Tech-Now has expanded its curriculum to focus on the skills necessary for successful employment by including specific activities for employment awareness, preparation, and simulation.Students complete a computer-based student interest inventory for career awareness and complete a web-based career exploration activity. These activities help students identify academic and personal strengths and weaknesses to inform their career vision.

Students utilize the internet and other resources to identify and prepare for part-time and summer employment opportunities. Mock interviews and peer evaluations help students improve employment-related interpersonal skills, expand awareness of employee duties and expectations, strengthen oral communication skills, and accept constructive criticism. Students research interviewing tips for job seekers and create resumes.

Youth Development and Leadership: 

Through participation in the Tech-Now Milestone Activities, student teams create entrepreneurial projects. The projects focus on skills involving product selection, market research, advertising, product development, and sales. Each team invites and interacts with local business owners and entrepreneurs, discussing how to start and run a business, including issues such as staffing, financing, inventory, determining hours of operation, choosing a location, making a brand and getting it known, determining profits and losses, and evaluating employees.

The Milestone Activities provide students an opportunity to establish leadership and team member roles, negotiate distribution of duties, and improve social skills as they relate to potential customers, the community, and team members. Students work as a member of a team, improve oral and written communication skills, engage in conflict resolution, and increase their individual ability to recognize and evaluate the contributions of the team members while actually forming a business, designing a logo, and creating a product to market and sell.

Connecting Activities: 

Tech-Now staff work to connect students with disabilities to the appropriate state agencies which can assist them in securing needed services such as help with postsecondary tuition/books, tutors, scribes, assistive technology, job training programs, independent living programs, work-study programs, transportation, and employment.

Evidence of Success (Information and Analysis)
Systems Change: 

Tech-Now has established partnerships with state agencies and secured scholarships for participants to attend Oklahoma Universities and Colleges, as well as Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Facilities.

Through a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, qualifying students can begin receiving transition services at the age of 16 or in the student’s sophomore year of high school, whichever occurs first.

Tech-Now staff members have become valued members of state transition teams and continue to impact decision-makers in disability advocacy groups.

In addition, Tech-Now staff helped found the Oklahoma Transition Council (OTC), comprised of state agency stakeholders and disability policy advocates who work to improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities in Oklahoma. The OTC provides multiple statewide transition institutes annually for area transition teams in an effort to impact policies and procedures for individuals in their area based on the teams’ transition plans created during the annual institutes. The council works in collaboration with the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center.

Data: 

Since 1999, Tech-Now has served approximately 1,800 students with disabilities throughout the state of Oklahoma. Its ten-year cumulative graduation rate is 96%. Over 50% of Tech-Now participants have gone on to pursue postsecondary education.

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