E-learning brings Calculus to high schools 

Drop in Fraser institute rankings not cause for concern

Derivatives, limits, integrals, it all sounds like Greek to the average person.

But for the first time Grade 12 Math students at Whistler Secondary and Pemberton Secondary are getting to know the terms intimately through a new e-learning class, which started April 3.

"I believe it will make a difference," said Grade 12 student Robbie Laird who plans on going to UBC in September.

He hopes that the course will help him get a grasp of the basics before he heads into university Calculus, a course that usually has hundreds of students and a significant failure rate.

The course is an example of the flexibility now possible at Whistler Secondary thanks to some new sources of government funding and a desire at the district level to offer more courses for university entrance and beyond.

But what also makes this course unique is that it is being taught for the first time using Smartboard and video technology, so that a class can be run in Whistler and Pemberton simultaneously with just one teacher.

The technology allows the Whistler-based teacher, Bob Morris, to write on the Smartboard and have the information appear instantaneously in Pemberton. Morris can also hear and see the Pemberton students and they can see and hear Morris, so it is possible to answer questions for both sets of kids in the class.

Morris is also captured on video giving the class so that portions of his lecture can be uploaded to a Ministry of Education web-based learning site (Cool School) for students elsewhere to learn from.

Morris, intrigued by the technology, came out of retirement to run the Calculus 12 course he developed several years ago.

"It is just like being here and being there at the same time," he said.

School trustee Chris Vernon-Jarvis has been working toward introducing e-learning to the district for several years.

"I think all schools should have this because, as I have said before, we are living in an age where our kids have a totally different environment than the one I grew up in," said Vernon-Jarvis.

"Yet we are still teaching them the same way and still demanding that teachers get their attention the same way.

"But I don’t know how you can stand in a classroom of 25 kids for five hours a day and hold their attention when at home they have all this technology which is very attention seeking."

The technology can also allow students to go anywhere in the world on the web. You could host an English class where the students get to talk with the author of a book they are studying, or interview a specialist in environmental concerns from the rainforest.

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