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

Catherine Mitchell's Approach A Hit With Students And Administrators
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Skype teacher

Catherine Mitchell is fast becoming the most tech-savvy teacher in New York City. (Photo: CBS 2)

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Award-winning journalist Maurice DuBois anchors CBS 2 News at 5 and 11...
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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.

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