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Chambersburg schools implement online teaching tool

November 14, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Technology now allows Chambersburg Area School District teachers to take attendance, lecture and demonstrate computer methods to students without having to step foot in a traditional classroom.

A $120,000 Classrooms for the Future grant in 2008-09 allowed the district to purchase Blackboard, an online teaching tool popular in colleges.

With Blackboard already in use in Chambersburg Area Senior High School and Faust Junior High School, district officials are planning to offer some high school seniors an option to learn from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting next school year.

"We want to wean them into that model," said Chris Bigger, the school district's curriculum director.

Brian Hostetler assistant principal at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, and Christine Wolgemuth, instructional technology mentor for the school district, presented the school board with information about e-learning last week.

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Almost every high school student has a Blackboard account, Bigger said.

Blackboard has a component called Live Classroom, which allows teachers to communicate via two-way audio and video feeds. Lessons can be archived, polls can be conducted, and teachers can see what is happening on students' computers or show what is happening on theirs. Students can read passages of text or turn on accompanying audio if they struggle with reading comprehension.

"They'll never miss a note because they can always go back," Wolgemuth said.

"We'd like to have e-learning in as many courses as possible," Hostetler said, saying administrators are planning for a 60-40 model for face-to-face interaction compared to e-learning.

Graduates report their colleges expect them to use Blackboard, he said.

District spokeswoman Sylvia Rockwood said the high school library is exploring the possibility of allowing students to check out laptop computers as they would books. The renovated high school's library will be more available to the public, possibly including more hours than currently offered, she said.

Bigger told the school board it soon will be asked to adopt policies regarding e-learning and attendance.

"There are online assessments built into Blackboard, or they can do classroom assessments," Hostetler said in response to a board question about tests.

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