Not exactly higher ed, but still neat

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by mattbrent, Jan 24, 2009.

  1. mattbrent

    mattbrent Well-Known Member

    As everyone here is aware, the US economy is in the crapper. My school division is going to take a serious hit this year, probably even larger than what we took last year. What better way to save on funds than to consider distance learning.

    My school division doesn't exactly follow Virginia's suggestions when it comes to what courses to offer students. Virginia suggests that 7th graders take Civics and Economics and that 8th graders should take World History, which is considered a high school level course. Unfortunately, we have Civics and Economics in 8th grade, and World History in 9th grade. Generally that's not an issue, but what happens when a student from another school division moves into mine? That was an issue we had to solve this year.

    I had an 8th grader move into the county who had already taken Civics. The middle school didn't know what to do with him. For 2 weeks he just sat there in the library rather than going to a class. Then they decided to have him come up to the high school in the morning to take World History with me. (My school division only has 3 schools. It's very rural.) So he would ride the bus to the high school for 1st Period to take my class. He was such a great kid. It was amazing to have an 8th grader in my class who far surpassed the 12th graders I had in my class. He continued to do this up until Thursday of this past week.

    Because he was so bright, I really wanted him to be in the honors section of the class. This section was at the end of the day. When I asked him about his schedule, he told me he just had "self study" in the library at the end of the day. (Apparently he had taken another course that put him ahead, and we didn't have anything for him to take.) This made sense to me. Instead of him riding the bus to the high school and then being taken back to the middle school, we could have him picked up at the middle school and then just ride the bus home at the end of the day. I presented the idea to the administration, who dilly dallied on it, but supported the idea. Unfortunately though, I was told there was no one to pick him up. (Which is utter crap because there are plenty of aides just sitting around all day.)

    That's when I proposed idea number two. When I first came to the division, they were offering classes in sociology and psychology through a teleconferencing system with the community college. After that year, the teleconferencing equipment just sat in the storage room collecting dust for 3 years. The high school had one, and so did the middle school. Why couldn't we just set this up and have him take the class from the middle school? It would save gas funds from having to transport him, and it wouldn't tie up any employees, even though I know there were plenty who just sit around. I presented this to our IT guy. He passed it along to our assistant superintendent.

    Two months passed and we finally got the okay. On Thursday he started telecommuting to my honors class at the end of the day. We have the TV and Camera unit in the back of the room. With his remote, he can control the camera to look around the room and zoom in on the SMART Board that I use. He can hear everything we say, and we can hear him. It's a really neat set up and has been successful in the two days I've been doing it.

    Then fun thing for me is that he is sitting in a classroom all by himself with a camera on him. As we go through class, he'll still raise his hand to ask questions just like he were physically in our class. It's great.

    For me, having completed a masters program via DL, and working on a second DL program, I didn't think I'd ever teach a high school class via DL. Granted it's not internet based, I have to make sure he gets his materials and such. I'm anxious to see how the rest of the year pans out.

  2. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    I think the concept of DL for high school has many advantages, especially in colder climates where the costs of heat and power could be dramatically reduced, but I wouldn't endorse it as a general rule.

    I think socialization is crucially important during high school years, which can only come with face-to-face interaction. By the time I hit college, I had all the friends I needed or wanted, but I don't think I would have wanted to spend grades 9-12 working from my bedroom.

    I think that's how serial killers start out. :D
  3. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef


    Very creative Matt! I know for me too, that taking distance learning has helped me look more outside the box.
  4. Shawn Ambrose

    Shawn Ambrose New Member

    I teach two to three courses via ITV every semester. We are a rural Wisconsin community college. I have two classes where there is only one student at a location. They appreciate the ability to enroll in the class.

  5. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Matt - You are way ahead of the curve. I hope that someday your boss recognizes this.
  6. mbaonline

    mbaonline New Member

    Good job!

    Matt, you are an awesome teacher! And what a creative way to use resources. As a parent (of two gifted kids) thank you for going the extra mile to help a kid who doesn't necessarily fit into the standard classroom.

    As Kizmet says, I hope your boss realizes this.
  7. mattbrent

    mattbrent Well-Known Member

    She does... she made a joke that once they (the powers that be) see that this situation is working, they can have one teacher teach about five classes in different locations in the school, and then they would be able to fire four other teachers and save money on their salary.

    Given the amount of cuts education is about to take, I wouldn't be surprised if administrators actually tried this. We lost 6 teachers last year from cut, and I believe we'll probably lose another 3-4 this year. That'll put us under 30 teachers, which is just crazy.

  8. bamafan

    bamafan New Member

    In Alabama we require students (beginning next year) to take one online class as a prerequisite to graduate. I currently teach an online US History Since 1877 course to 11th graders. There are 8 students in the class from 3 different high schools across Alabama. Last semester I taught Psychology to 48 students from 8 different high schools across the state. Alabama "ACCESS" as it is called is a very creative way to assist at-risk students make up credits and offer courses that might not be available to schools in rural areas.
  9. mattbrent

    mattbrent Well-Known Member

    We do have "Virtual Virginia" which allows rural schools to offer AP classes. The difficulty here is that everything is web-based and access to the instructor is somewhat limited. It used to be done through satellite broadcasts, but they stopped that because apparently the web based format is cheaper.

    I served as a proctor to Virtual Virginia for 2 years. The first year it was done via satellite, and we watched the instructor teach the lessons from her home school. The second year it was done via the web (same instructor), but the kids had such a hard time because it was so unclear when things were due, etc.


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