• 72°

IHS students benefit from distance learning program

With a little help from

modern technology, physics students at Ironton High School are proof that education today has no boundaries.

About 25 juniors and seniors visit the computer lab each day to watch television for an hour, but they are not just channel surfing through soap operas or the latest MTV shows.

Learning physics from Mary Beth Mauer,

a teacher at Union-Scioto High School in Chillicothe, the students are the first class at the school to utilize distance learning.

"I think it is thrilling, personally," Mauer said of the ability to reach students from across the state. "I had been wanting to upgrade my technology skills and this gives me the perfect opportunity."

Making use of two television screens, an electronically linked overhead projector, cameras and a microphone,

teachers and students from both schools can fully

interact with each other.

Mauer can see the students and they can see her and her class as they work through the questions on her projector. For grading, the students can place their work on their projector to get feedback. A keyboard is used to adjust the camera angles.

Hopefully all of the students have enjoyed it as much as she has and

the schools can arrange a field trip to get together face to face, Mauer said.

Eric Wilkes, a senior at Union-Scioto, agrees that the class has been a great experience, and said he would also like to meet his long-distance peers.

"The class gives you more of a reason to pay attention and learn. It gets students more involved," he said. "I would like to meet them in person, to get to know more than just faces."

Matthew Morris, an Ironton senior, said he enjoys the interactive learning more than a traditional classroom.

"I think it is better than a normal class because it helps us learn more and gives us different experiences," he said. "I think this is good preparation for college."

Ironton senior Sara Harper said that she was pessimistic at first and thought it would be hard to learn. After taking the class for a while, she said she has changed her mind because all the students are on the same level and it is easy to pay attention.

Growing out of necessity, the class began this format after the physics teacher left school for the remainder of the year because of family reasons. Principal Dean Nance said he knew he had to do something to make sure the students did not fall behind.

Physical science teacher Tim Thomas took over the class, but is not qualified to teach physics. So Nance looked toward technology to solve the dilemma.

"No one dreamed of this 20 years ago," Nance said. "Business and industry is going to this. We do not want to be left behind. It is good for kids, the school and the partnerships between schools."

Nance said the project would not be possible without the support of Ohio University Southern's GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) program and federal grants from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

In the future, Ironton plans to cooperate with other Lawrence County schools to offer courses, such as a calculus class, that could benefit students from several schools, Nance said.