If some of Ed Crelley's physics students misbehave in class, he can't whack them with a ruler - even if he were inclined to do so.
Only 11 of the students in his advanced placement physics class actually are in class at Brighton High School. Four others are across Salt Lake Valley in Jordan High School, learning physics long distance through Jordan School District's new distance learning capacity.The system allows top-notch teachers who instruct advanced placement classes to reach small numbers of students in several schools, saving the costs of an instructor at each site.
The system is ideal for advanced placement classes, which are generally small. The classes offer college credit for the students who are able to pass tests at the conclusion of a course.
Besides the physics class, teachers of French and German are also using the audio/graphic network based at Brighton to reach students in several schools simultaneously.
For instance, when Rachel DeFriez holds an advanced French class, she has students at Jordan, Bingham and Hillcrest high schools on her rolls.
She told Jordan Board members that the system was "easy to learn and enjoyable working with." With small numbers of students at several locations, she can assign class work for some while talking with one individually by telephone connection, offering practice in speaking the foreign language.
The students at all the sites are able to interact freely with the instructor at Brighton. Aides are available in the remote schools to monitor student progress and respond to needs that arise.
Heidi Pond takes the same approach in teaching German to students at several schools.
Lesson materials are put on a digitized "electronic bulletin board" and projected to television monitors in the guest schools. Instructional materials can be transferred to a floppy disc for saving at the remote areas, allowing students to print out and study classroom presentations on their own after class.
Scott Weaver, an AP physics student at Jordan, said he was skeptical at first of taking a class long-distance, but found the instruction he has received via the audio/graphic system to be "very adequate. It's been as good as any AP class I've ever taken." He has completed seven AP courses and will start college with a hefty chunk of credit.
To date, 18 students are participating in the distance learning project, but its successful initiation indicates such networks could be effectively used to enhance teaching on a much broader scale, said Dr. Ron Sing, who has directed the design and implementation of the technology.
Sing, assistant principal at Brighton, spent two years studying alternatives for a distance learning project and directing installation of necessary equipment. Scheduling details had to be worked out among the participating schools as well.
Teachers using the system have had to rework lesson plans to be certain lesson concepts are presented both audibly and graphically for the benefit of students who aren't present in the classroom, Sing said.
The students receiving instruction at the guest schools seem to perform as well as those in the classroom at Brighton, early assessments indicate. If the first year continues to be successful, the program will likely be expanded to other schools in the district.
Jordan paid for the technology through a state productivity grant and district money that is earmarked for advanced placement programs.