NYC Teacher Instructs Classes At 2 Schools 13 Miles Apart Using Skype

Catherine Mitchell's Approach A Hit With Students And Administrators

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the school year winds down, technology and its impact on how children are taught continues to move forward.

An innovative new high school program has one teacher at the head of two classes at the same time — and the kids are learning, and loving it, reports CBS 2’s Maurice Dubois.

Class has been in session in SoHo and in the Bronx. The teacher, Catherine Mitchell, is teaching two classes at the same time at different schools 13 miles apart, using Skype.

Throughout the year, advanced placement English students at the East Bronx Academy of the Future have learned to share their teacher, while students at the New York City iSchool in Manhattan have learned to learn in a different way — by computer and video conferencing.

“The challenge of trying to make the technology not just work but to make the technology help with the teaching has been very, very interesting,” Mitchell said.

iSchool principal Alisa Berger said the program is a success.

“Kids learn when they’re with an adult who is invested in their learning, supporting them through that, but a skilled teacher can create that with technology,” Berger said.

Berger said it took several weeks for everyone to get comfortable with the equipment and for the students to get used to this new teaching style.

“I started to adjust and get used to having her on the screen and realize just because she’s not physically here doesn’t mean that she isn’t my teacher,” student Malia Medina said.

Putting a teacher in front of two classes at once might solve some school budget and overcrowding issues, but it also has meant an increased workload for the instructors.

“Miss Mitchell is compensated for having extra work, but she’s not the cost of having an additional teacher,” Berger said.

Having their teacher on a 6-by-8-foot screen hasn’t bothered the students.

“I find myself being more responsible with my studies and handing things in on time because she can’t literally chase me and ask that I hand in my stuff,” Bria Lewis said.

“I feel like in a way she is kind of there pointing over my shoulder because when we log on to our computer we have to sign into our e-mail and see what we have to do,” Kyiah Coryat added.

“I definitely had had to be a smarter teacher; I don’t mean smarter. I’ve had to be wiser about using my time,” Mitchell said.

The SoHo class did get to meet their teacher from the Bronx face to face several times during the year, and there are plans to expand the program to more classes in September.

Think this is a cool idea? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Maurice DuBois
  • Alan Fife

    Online learning is fast becoming the norm, with schools finally realizing how they can adapt technology to benefit the students. As an owner of a School providing online Spanish lessons to students worldwide we have adapted to a changing world.

  • Central Kansas

    Fri, 6-17-11. To East Bronx Academy of the Future: Very well-done, cutting-edge, and imaginative. One key is to have participation only by well-motivated people; otherwise the troublemakers can derail it very easily. Suppose you were teaching a topic and the teacher and students were 100 miles apart, but that the topic was life-saving or very critical. Everyone would be well motivated. And the likelihood of success would be high. This will work for highly-functioning people, students and teachers. I like it. Let’s see more!!

  • Tom Bauer

    This technique will work for those who are well motivated to teach/learn. It will help with school district budgets. No there is not always a 1 on 1, student/teacher. We do this in the healthcare field in Kansas and in the Community Colleges in Kansas where distances and expenses are problematic. Yes this technique can be sabotaged easily. And the nay-sayers don’t want it to work and should not participate. Use it for the well motivated students/teachers. Tom Bauer, Stafford, Kansas

  • Karen

    I like the idea for education distance learning, children at home are ill and more. I use a video phone which works even better for this method.

  • Yocash Janet

    I have a lot of concern with this technology and the perverts that are teacherS

  • SickofBloomberg

    Like everything else the Moron Mayor has done to NYC schools, this too will blow up in his face. Seriously, does being a crook with a lot of money give you permission to use the rest of the world as your personal plaything????? By the way, before the idiots who defend Mayor Moron jump in, the only reason this program has anything remotely approaching success is because the students are highly self motivated. Try this with the average middle schooler and see what happens. Try this with the average college kid and you’re in for some laughs!!!!!

  • schooly girl

    hmm is this a bloomberg plan to cut more teachers … how about 1 teacher for 3 schools? 4? 5? a District? … cut cut cut … what a sham, how can students get any sort of 1 on 1 attention from this set up.

  • stormin' norman

    How would the teacher deal with those students who would refuse to do the lesson while she preforms the lesson from a remote location?

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