Distance learning centers to unite schools

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 21, 2005

When the 2005-2006 school year kicks off this falls, students at the county’s three public high schools will quickly find something different.

First, they’ll see that the four walls of a classroom no longer confines learning or that a teacher armed with a textbook is the sole educational resource. In essence, the 21st Century will arrive completely in Butler County.

This comes about due to new technology to be installed at the system’s school properties and auxiliary buildings.

Through this program, learning for Butler County’s students will defy time and space.

Students in the county’s two southern high schools will have the same benefit of the wide range of classes that Greenville High School now has.

That is the report from Dr. Mike Reed, superintendent of system.

&uot;This will allow us to do many things that were not possible before,&uot; he said.

&uot;We will be able to hold in-service for our teachers without having them travel all over the county.

This will save us time, money and resources.&uot;

He said the part of the new program that he is most proud of is that students in all the high schools will be have the same opportunities.

&uot;We will be able to offer high school courses such as our advance placement classes that might not be offered at our smaller schools,&uot; he said.

&uot;We plan to broadcast our AP calculus, biology and chemistry classes, among others.&uot;

Matthew Shell, the system’s technology coordinator, said each school or auxiliary property will have a receiver up to 140 feet in height.

The schools will have classrooms wired with technology that allows a teacher in Greenville High School to see and hear students in Georgiana and McKenzie.

&uot;This will be classes done in real time,&uot; Reed said.

&uot;There is no hesitation or delay and students will be able to interact with other students and teachers.&uot;

He said the program would require greater coordination at the district level.

The main difference for the schools will be a consolidated bell schedule throughout the county.

&uot;Students will pre-register in February for the next school year and once we have an idea of how many students we have for each class, the principals will then sit down together and work out a schedule,&uot; Reed said.

The term "distance learning" describes the process of connecting learners to remote educational resources. Distance learning uses such communication technologies as teleconferencing, videoconferencing, satellite broadcast, and computer-based training (including CD-ROMs and the Internet) to enhance an organization’s instructional strategies and to allow the strategies to reach a broader audience with more flexibility.

Well-defined instructional needs and goals drive an organization’s choice of distance learning strategies, and careful assessment of learners’ and instructors’ needs drives the choice of specific distance learning technologies.

Reed also pointed out that students off site from the teacher will not be unsupervised during the class.

&uot;We have qualified personnel in the off site classrooms,&uot; he said.

&uot;They will be there to monitor the students, but the teachers will also be able to see everything in a classroom.&uot;

The superintendent said this is just an exciting program for the school system because there are approximately only four school systems in the state with this technology.

&uot;The possibilities are endless,&uot; Reed said.

&uot;As other systems start going live with their systems, we can then piggy back to other schools and even colleges.&uot;

The entire cost of the system is $405,000 spread over four years and added that there are no local funds being used.

&uot;All of this is federal dollars,&uot; he said.

&uot;Our portion is given through in-kind services such as the building and land for the towers.&uot;

As for the system is up and running, Reed said the company installing the system is behind schedule due to hurricanes in Florida.

&uot;We now waiting on the company,&uot; he said.

&uot;The hurricanes knocked us behind schedule because right now their down in Florida fixing what was destroyed there.&uot;

Georgiana Principal Roland Pettie said he was not aware of all the details, but said anything to give the students a better education is welcomed at Georgiana High School.

&uot;Whatever will benefit our students is a good thing,&uot; he said.

&uot;With our small staff and small numbers, we have a hard time meeting all the needs such as advanced placement classes.&uot;

As for working more at the district level, he said that will take some adjustment.

&uot;It will take some adjusting because we are all on different bell schedules now,&uot; he said.

&uot;Whatever we have to do, we’ll do.&uot;