Nearly 70 students from across Westchester County gathered at Putnam/Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services Yorktown campus Thursday for the kick-off of the second year of its Online Courses for the 21st Century program.
Students who signed up for these unique, blended courses covering subjects like Architecture Across the Centuries and Today and the History of Media and the Presidency had a chance to meet their teachers and classmates face-to-face before diving into the online learning experience. They also learned about the technology that will be used and were introduced to the course work.
Kevan Carroll, a senior at Walter Panas High School who took two OC 21 classes last year, said she came back for a third course because the program “gives me the flexibility to learn about a lot of topics that might not be offered at my high school.” Although students work independently for much of the course, Kevan said the online courses were better than an independent study because of the support students receive from their teachers and fellow online classmates.
Yorktown science teacher Eric Agosta designed one of the new courses being offered this fall, Historical Geology and Paleontology. Agosta said he viewed the program as a “great way to get students involved in my passion for geology and paleontology while also helping them get ready for college.”
In addition to making a wider array of elective courses available to students in the region, the online program helps high school students learn how to manage their time independently. “Taking an internet course is not that easy,” said BOCES Superintendent Jim Langlois. “You are going to have to take charge of your learning and that’s something you will find across the board when you go to college.”
Arthur Buchman, project coordinator of OC 21 for Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, said one of the goals of the program was to help students become better online learners, and to help teachers become better online teachers. BOCES’ Curriculum Center developed the courses in concert with forward-looking school districts including Bedford, Chappaqua, Katonah-Lewisboro, Lakeland, Mamaroneck, Ossining, Peekskill and Yorktown. In addition, Ardsley, Croton-Harmon, Dobbs Ferry and Valhalla school districts are piloting the program this fall.
Agosta said his biggest challenge in teaching the online course will be “making a physical science interesting through an online forum,” something he plans to accomplish through the use of field trips and videos. All of the OC 21 courses will use live webinars, chats, forums and social networking to enable students to create resources, share work virtually or in real time and learn from a variety of media.
In his class Sustainability Action for Change, Chris DeMattia, a teacher at Fox Lane High School, led a discussion about needs versus wants to get students thinking about what sustainability means. Meanwhile, Agosta had his students form teams for a challenge that required ingenuity and helped the students get to know one another
This fall’s course offerings include: Anthropology, The History of Media and the Presidency, Historical Geology and Paleontology, 21st Century Literacy, Sustainability for Change and Architecture Across the Centuries and Today. The program is produced in partnership with the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center and Learner Centered Initiatives.
Marla Gardner, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Services said, “We are thrilled to be delivering such high quality online courses to the region. By collaborating with other districts, we can provide cost-effective, state-of- the- art learning opportunities for students.”