Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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TPS goes high tech to do more with fewer classes

One teacher televises lesson throughout the district

Mike Jewell calls himself a dinosaur, but he's at the vanguard of a Toledo Public Schools technological push.

He broadcast from Woodward High School Thursday to a room full of Toledo Public School officials at Start High School, demonstrating a new program for the district this year called distance learning labs. He will be based at Bowsher High School, but will teach students throughout the district.

"It's such an exciting process for me," he said.

Toledo Public Schools will have these distance labs at all six high schools this fall. The labs allow the district to boost its advanced-placement and foreign-language courses at its high schools without having to pay for the teachers at all the schools. Students will be able to take classes such as Chinese or AP American government.

The new rooms -- still under construction at four of the schools -- look more like college labs than high school classrooms. Flat-screen TVs line both front and back walls of the rooms. Long tables are lined with microphone pods, and are tiered, increasing visibility for student and remote teacher.

A teacher such as Mr. Jewell broadcasts the class from one of the six distance labs. Students at the five other sites can see the teacher on large flat-screen TVs in front of their classes. To answer and ask questions, they hit a microphone button in front of them, transmitting to all locations.

In the back of all rooms are more TV screens so the teacher can see all his students. The cameras can zoom onto the student asking questions, focusing the teacher's attention.

"It's a very exciting time for the district," assistant superintendent Brian Murphy said. "This technology takes us into the future."

The distance labs at least partially address the lack of AP and language courses offered to students at Scott High School, a source of criticism for the district from central-city groups. Language offerings will triple at Scott with the labs, and AP courses will double, TPS chief academic officer Jim Gault said.

In the past, district officials had said schools such as Scott had few AP courses because there wasn't enough demand. The district wasn't going to dedicate teachers to classes with only a handful of students.

But now, a handful of students at six schools turn into a full distance lab class.

And the district isn't just expanding the supply of advanced level courses. New programs at Woodward and Scott are focused on getting more C-level students to take advanced courses, in hopes they are better prepared for college when they graduate.

So far, about 250 students have signed up for the lab classes, district officials said. All told, the lab program cost the district about $750,000, paid for out of the capital improvement budget.

The distance labs are part of the district's transformational plan, and they're not the only major changes this year. In the plan, all middle and elementary schools will open Aug. 29 as K-8 schools.

The shift of middle school students back to neighborhood schools could limit course offerings for the students, so TPS is expanding its early high school program. Now, seventh and eight-graders who enroll in the program will take most of their classes at their home schools but will be bussed to a high school at 1:30 p.m. every day. They'll take two high school-level courses -- such as algebra, world studies, or foreign languages -- then get bused back to their home schools.

The hope is that eventually, students who took early high school classes will later want to take AP and advanced classes in high school.

Thus, more demand.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: or 419-724-6086.

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