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FHS breaks new ground

Farragut High School is taking part in a groundbreaking experiment for Knox County Schools.

FHS teacher Leslie Howe’s advanced placement calculus class is being broadcast via Internet to two Fulton High School students, Jonathon Blair and Nathan McDonough.

“I think for a long time the school has been looking down the road and ‘saying distance learning is being tried other places.’ If we got pushed into a crunch and had to use distance learning, say for teacher shortage or because teachers are not qualified, we wanted to iron out all the problems instead of waiting until we were pressed against the wall and had to do it,” Howe said.

At the FHS Leadership Initiative Breakfast, held Mon-day, Feb. 18, FHS Principal Michael Reynolds spoke to members of Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce about this Web cast.

“That is an amazing step, I think, for a high school faculty to take. It is done on a college level, but I can’t think of anywhere else in Tennessee where it is done on a high school level,” he said.

“Our thought was, if we have great teachers and another school has a shortage of teachers, why not give those students a chance to offer a course like A-P calculus. We offer several A-P courses and if we can do it with calculus, we can do it in other courses as well.

“What it sets up, I think, is something that is dramatic not only for the county, but maybe for the state. If Knox County can do it for schools within our boundaries, what about schools like Hancock County? What about the rural schools? Give those students a chance. And that is what they really need, a chance,” he added.

Howe said the FHS students in her class like the idea of being in this first-of-its-kind class.

Jonathon, one of the two Fulton HS students in the class, said, “It’s like making history.”

So, how does this class work?

Howe said, “We have a poly-cam, which is a two-way camera, which is used in businesses and other places for two-way communications. That camera takes pictures in our room and it is connected by the Internet to a camera in their room.

“Since the camera is connected by an I-P address, it can be manipulated from either side. I can turn their camera over here and they can turn their camera, and we can zoom in. If I move they can follow me.

“And we have connected by net meeting, also over the Internet, two smartboards.

“I have control over their smartboard, so when I write anything over here, it automatically writes the same thing on their smartboard.” She added.

“We have a microphone hanging in the center of our room so they can hear everything that I say and we have a microphone over there so I can hear everything they say.”

Howe has a screen on the back wall of her classroom that projects Jonathon and Nathan sitting at their desks in their classroom.

“They are virtually here. The thing that has been interesting is that they interact with the other kids.”

Fulton has a teacher’s aide, Carol Stout, who comes in each day and makes sure the equipment is turned on and working properly.

“I do not have any problems with Jonathan and Nathan not paying attention. They are seniors, and if they are taking A-P calculus, they are not going to be any trouble,” Howe said.

The only drawback, Howe said, is that she cannot stand directly over Jonathon and Nathan to give them one-on-one attention like she can the Farragut students in her class.

“But we are working on that,” she added. “We have a piece of equipment, we just haven’t gotten it to work yet, where I should be able to see what they are writing on their paper.”

Howe hopes the Web cast classes will branch into other directions.

“I am hoping this would get cost-effective enough that we could use it for homebound [students]. Right now, with homebound teachers, you are sending someone out who may not know the material. People who are hired for homebound are not experts in any area. [A student] may be out for 45 days and they come back with an A, and you have to average it in, and they know nothing about what was covered and they are behind. They get an A because the homebound teacher says ‘they did everything I asked them to,’ but now they have a big hole in their education.

“Wouldn’t it be better, if at nine o’clock every day, even if their leg is in traction, they could join the class?” she asked.

Howe said she does not know if the classes will continue after this year, but she feels the class has been a success so far.


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