E-classrooms being pursued by Whistler PAC 

One teacher could teach two classrooms in district; students could communicate with others around the world

Imagine if your kids could talk to Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela, or Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau, or the leader of the United Nations.

It’s all possible with the introduction of an e-classroom, a place where technology and imagination can come together to make just about anything possible.

"It inspires kids and that is beyond price," said Chris Vernon-Jarvis, assistant chair of the Whistler Parent Advisory Council, which has already voted to financially support the idea.

"This is another opportunity for expanding their horizons."

But there is also a more tangible reason to introduce this idea. It will make it possible to offer courses not currently available to high school kids by sharing the expense between schools.

"The reasons we would like to have it is that on a purely academic basis it would allow us to run classes with other schools in the district that don’t have a whole class," said Vernon-Jarvis.

"For instance if you have 10 or 12 kids in Whistler and 10 or 12 kids in Pemberton who wish to do Physics 12 you can do that.

In this case the technology would connect a teacher and a class of students to another group of students in another location via live video transmitted over the Internet. They could talk to each other and to the teacher as if they were in the same location.

And since both schools are sharing the teacher it cuts down on the cost of offering the course.

"It is going to save $10,000 per class per year," said Vernon-Jarvis.

"If you run three or four courses like that a year you are going to save $20,000 to $30,000 and that comes back to the district, so that is a good investment."

The school had asked the Ministry of Education for a grant of $75,000 to get the technology in place for the district, but was turned down this fall.

However, it is an idea the government is interested in pursuing. It fact it will be hosting an e-learning roundtable in February as part of the ongoing work of the Premier’s Technology Council.

And there are already several schools involved in a $225,000 e-learning pilot project in the Alberni, Coast Mountain and Prince George school districts.

Education Minister Christy Clark was quoted recently as saying: "Electronic learning is possibly the best way for rural school districts to provide choice."

To set up each school would cost approximately $15,000 to $16,000 per school, plus some teacher training.

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