District 128 Offers E-Classes
Byline: Russell Lissau firstname.lastname@example.org By Russell Lissau email@example.com
A pair of computer-based English classes offered this summer at [URL]Vernon Hills High School;http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stand-for-the-Silent-IMS/165862290 113430#!/groups/355167047871627/[/URL] mark District 128's first foray into the expanding world of online education.
Twenty-two students are enrolled in the classes for the second semester of summer school. One is a remedial world literature class for freshmen and sophomores, and the other is a remedial American literature class for juniors and seniors.
Thirty students took the classes in the first semester, which concluded last week.
The students work in a computer lab at their own pace. Teachers are there to guide them, help when needed and occasionally step in with some group lessons.
"For instance, during writing instruction, I am able to talk to students individually about specific issues," said Tara Nieves, Vernon Hills High's English department supervisor and one of the teachers for the digital classes. "When students are having trouble with one of their quizzes, I can see if they are having a problem understanding the question, or if the student did not do a thorough job completing notes."
The courses were created by teachers from Vernon Hills High and its sister school, [URL]Libertyville High;http://www.standforthesilent.org/history.html[/URL]. They're offered at Vernon Hills High because summer school is at that campus this year for all District 128 students.
A Seattle company called [URL]Apex Learning;http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20111213/news/712139938/[/U RL] provided the software for the classes.
The company creates digital curriculums in math, science, English, social studies and world languages, as well as for Advanced Placement classes. They use audio recordings, video animation and interactive elements to get lessons across.
"The computerized focus helps reach kids that otherwise may struggle," Apex spokeswoman Teri Citterman said in an email.
Digital curriculum also frees up teachers' time in the classroom, enabling them to work more closely with students instead of merely lecturing at the front of the room, Citterman said.
"They often say it is more rewarding because they get to know their students as individuals," she said. "Teachers are able to take real interest in each student and have the time to really care about what they are learning."
That's certainly the case at Vernon Hills High this summer, Nieves said.
"We can hone in on specific skills as needed," she said in an email. "This process also gives us the opportunity to have conversations with students (and) get to know them a little better, even though we have them in class for a very short amount of time."
Vernon Hills student Mario McGhee is among the teens enrolled in the online classes this summer. …