Published: Sep 06, 2008 06:49 PM
Modified: Sep 06, 2008 06:48 PM
CHAPEL HILL -- Two local schools are moving forward with a pilot program that will bring new educational technologies -- including the iPod Touch -- into the classroom.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education approved an agreement Wednesday night with N.C. Virtual Public Schools, a state government organization that will test cutting-edge educational techniques at Culbreth Middle School and Scroggs Elementary School later this school year before possibly using them statewide.
"What we're doing is very purposeful research in your district," said Bryan Setser, executive director of NCVPS. "It's really a national benchmark in terms of e-learning."
The agreement gives each school $30,000 to buy audio/video equipment and mobile technology devices such as the iPod Touch.
Setser admitted the initial funding is "a modest amount of money," but said more funding will likely be added based on the early results of the study.
The iPods will be provided to students in Culbreth's Advancement via Individual Determination program, which places academically average students in advanced classes and gives them support to succeed in those classes and go to college.
A far cry from the more familiar music players, the iPod Touch lets students access the Internet, view educational podcasts and download e-books, among other functions.
If the pilot program is successful, Setser said several donors want to expand it and provide iPods to all Culbreth students and staff.
The program also includes plans for students to create blogs, record audio and video podcasts and have lessons in virtual worlds.
Scroggs has not yet developed a concrete plan for the funds, but Principal Grace Repass said using a blog tool with voice recording is a possibility.
"I think it'll take time," Repass said. "It's doing what (teachers) do with the kids every day but taking it to the next level."
And students likely will aid their teachers in the learning process.
"They're going to get on these computers and they're going to teach me, and I'm prepared for that," said William Hennessee, AVID instructor at Culbreth. "My students are excited."
NCVPS will work with the staff at both schools in the coming months to design the courses and teaching tools for the program.
The courses will be tested out on students starting in January, and the program will be evaluated in the spring and summer months. The program may be expanded statewide as soon as next fall.
Culbreth and Scroggs were the only two schools chosen statewide for the pilot program.
"We chose Chapel Hill because its infrastructure was stronger than others in the state to test it out," Setser said.
Though the proposal eventually received unanimous approval, several board members expressed concerns about the project.
Board member Jamezetta Bedford said she had a hard time getting used to the idea of using educational games as a teaching tool.
"It was hard to understand because all I could picture is World of Warcraft III," Bedford said. "My son's a gamer, and I think it's a total waste of his life."
But board member Annetta Streater said she has seen educational potential in computer games.
"A lot of it parallels what we call 21st century skills, because I've witnessed it in my son," Streater said. "Through gaming, children really do get to do critical thinking."
Setser cited as an example a computer game in which students are trying to exit Peru and need to use Spanish do it.
The program could be the first of many between the school district and NCVPS, Setser said.
"It is our hope that it will continue to be a demonstration site and seed bed in the years to come," he said.
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