Distance learning lets schools share teachers

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Students at Brookhaven High School are really getting intoAllison Litten’s French class, and so are students in Cleveland andClarksdale.

Litten is able to teach all of the students through the use ofan interactive video network run through Educational Television(ETV).

“It’s a good opportunity for schools that don’t have theresources to hire a teacher for one class,” said Litten. “It allowsthem to offer a variety of classes for the students.”

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About 15 students at BHS join in the class with 12 students fromEastside High School in the Delta and 17 students at ClarksdaleHigh School.

They are connected by two televisions, a camera, speakers andmicrophones in each classroom.

“It’s a little more challenging than a regular class, becausewhen I speak there’s a little bit of a delay,” said Litten.

She controls everything from a panel in the distance learninglab at BHS. A machine that acts as an overhead transparency with acamera instead of a mirror allows all the students to watch herwrite notes for them.

“This is what I use as my chalkboard since I can’t use a regularboard,” said Litten as she scribbles a French term on a piece ofpaper and slides it under the projector for the students.

A facilitator is used at the other schools to disciplinestudents and administer tests, although Litten has reported fewproblems during the two years the program has been a part ofBHS.

She does confess that the network can have its drawbacks withtechnical problems and lack of personal contact with students.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to gage how well they’reunderstanding, especially when they’re 200 miles away,” shesaid.

Students find the class interesting compared to the traditionalclassroom because of the opportunity to work with students fromother parts of the state.

“I think it’s really neat because you get to talk with the otherclasses,” said Jessica Bridwell, a ninth grader at BHS.

Classmate James Haynes, a senior, agrees that the interactionwith other schools makes the class his favorite at BHS.

“I like this class because you learn more than other classes.You learn a new language, and you learn about people from otherschools,” he said.

The students agree that if more classes were offered through thedistance learning lab they would sign up.

Teachers have also found the lab to be helpful in theireducation efforts. They can earn graduate degrees through theMississippi Teachers Fellowship Program that meets once a month. Itinvolves about 20 schools in the state.