Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A School Named for Distance Learning

Today was an orientation for students and parents for Bell Academy, a new middle school that is part of the New York City school system. Bell is an acronym for Bayside Enrichment and Long-Distance Learning Academy. I will be working there this year two days a week. It is very exciting to be working in a school whose central theme is distance learning. I have worked in several schools that had technology themes and the middle school I have been working in for the past few years is a magnet school of telecommunications. But with Bell Academy, distance learning specifically through the use of videoconferencing is front and center. The enrichment component is much broader than just the technology of videoconferencing but it also reflects how videoconferencing is integral to enriching the curriculum. The school will be following the Renzulli School-Wide Enrichment Model (SEM) . The main objectives of the Renzulli School-Wide Enrichment Program are:
• To expose students to topics that may not be included in the essential curriculum
• To increase student skills in research and problem solving
• To increase student awareness of personal strengths and interests
The use of videoconferencing will focus on exposing students to a wide variety of experiences. They will hear from experts and specialists in many fields and learn about different kinds of occupations, and hobbies. They will have the opportunity to observe and participate in demonstrations, experiments and research through videoconferencing with other institutions and other classrooms. They will travel the world without ever leaving their school. I am really looking forward to working with the students and their teachers in finding programs and collaborations that will "enrich" their learning and thinking. I don't think a school needs to have distance learning in their name to enjoy the benefits videoconferencing can bring but it can't hurt either.

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