Officials at the Wake County Public School System in North Carolina have set an ambitious goal for the 2003-2004 school year: At least 95 percent of the students in this 104,000-student district are to be at or above grade level, as measured by the North Carolina end-of-grade test for third and eighth grades. Although 91 percent of the district’s students now achieve this level of proficiency, district leaders are committed to elevating this number even further by finding ways to provide additional help to students who need it.
To address this issue, Carroll Middle School in Wake County has turned to technology. An internet-based television (IP-TV) system now enables school officials to provide the additional instructional time needed by many students without straining faculty or budgets.
“This is an innovative way to incorporate technology into the classrooms and help students who need more one-on-one attention,” said Connie Schlimme, math department head.
The IP-TV system was used to create a program called COOL-TV (Comprehensive Online Learning Television), which allows teachers to record lessons that can be accessed by students anywhere, any time over the school’s intranet. The lessons, averaging seven minutes in length, are stored on the system to provide the school with a broad library of content that can be accessed by students year after year.
“COOL-TV is a great tool for working with individual students who need a little additional work on a given topic,” said Jay Boriotti, a seventh-grade social studies teacher. “It’s also a great vehicle for providing enrichment activities for advanced learners that can be occurring in the classroom while the teacher is covering basic instructional content with other students.”
COOL-TV lessons are available to all students at Carroll Middle School, though most students who use the system for additional help are those who did not achieve grade-level proficiency. The system can be used to review material covered in class, reteach materials to students who missed class time or need additional instruction, or provide individualized instruction for students who are deficient in particular areas.
School officials built a video studio where teachers could record the lessons, but they needed to raise money for the equipment. John Marsland, the parent of a Carroll Middle School student, approached his employer, Cisco Systems, with the idea, and Cisco agreed to provide the heart of the system: an IP-TV broadcast server that records and plays back the programs, which are distributed over internal networks.
The company also donated the Ethernet switches that connect the computers used by students to the network. These switches improve the quality of the distributed video and allow more students to view different programs simultaneously. 4Front Systems, a local systems integrator working with the district, donated its services to install the equipment.
Another key piece of equipment for the COOL-TV system was donated by Elmo USA, a manufacturer of high-quality presentation systems. Teachers use the Elmo document camera to incorporate notes, graphics, and other paper documents into their video lessons. They can zoom in on specific areas of a document and control the recording of their lessons with a built-in video switch that connects the document camera, the video camera, and microphones to the IP-TV server.
Implementation at Carroll Middle School, which was Phase 1 of the project, has been completed. The next two stages will involve distribution of content to other schools in Wake County and to the county’s public libraries.
“Beyond that, we want to distribute the content to internet service providers, such as Time Warner Cable, to enable home delivery of the programs,” Marsland said. “Our ultimate goal is to replicate the program across the United States.”
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