Some Jackson County high school students are learning the French language from a teacher who is 40-miles away. Lynn Davis is teaching French I from East Central High School in Hurley. Using a camera, TV, and a receiver, the lectures are sent through the Internet, and into the classroom at St. Martin High School.
"I looked everywhere for a French teacher, but couldn't find a French teacher," said St. Martin High Principal Dr. Toriano Holloway. "Luckily, we were doing the distance learning. Now we don't worry about finding a French teacher."
Deiter Miller at St. Martin High is also using the technology to teach German to his students, as well as to a class at Vancleave High.
"I was a little bit apprehensive about doing this, because there's nothing better than getting into the classroom," said Deiter Miller. "This will not replace the teacher, but they wouldn't have German in Vancleave if we didn't do this."
Students do have some human interaction. A facilitator helps hand out the tests and assignments, and controls the camera. If this pilot project is successful this year, the district plans to expand the course offerings.
"Maybe get a couple of other classes like AP calculus, AP Biology. We offer AP Biology, but we hope to be able to offer it to East Central and Vancleave if they don't have it," Dr. Holloway said. "I don't want the whole school to become distance learning. But if we can offer two or three classes so our kids can get something they wouldn't normally get here, that's the ultimate goal."
"I want to do a really good job for them, and so we're going to try to make this work," Miller said.
The video-conferencing technology is also used for virtual field trips and district-wide faculty meetings. A private $300,000 grant funded the program at St. Martin.