Many area high school attend one or more classes via interactive television networks, which will be receiving an upgrade over the next couple of years.
Zachary Klokstad, a student at Westhope, is in his second year as a Spanish student in a class taught over ITV by MLS-Mohall Spanish teacher Lynn Christianson.
"There are a lot of details about ITV classes that are different," he said. "It is not just communicating through video communication and having a teacher give a lecture from 40 miles away.
Submitted Photos - - Video links students and teachers in interactive video classrooms.
Klokstad said he thinks he has received as good an education as he might have in a face-to-face class.
"In my experience there has been nothing that has hindered my understanding of the lesson or has been too considerable an inconvenience," he said, adding that Spanish is one of his favorite classes and Christianson is an excellent teacher.
A few problems do arise from time to time due to the technology, such as when the students in the class aren't sure which button to push on the ITV remote with the multiple buttons or are afraid of pushing the wrong button.
"The classes also require a middle man," Klokstad said. "When our teacher has homework for us, she has to e-mail it ahead of time to our ITV ambassador in Westhope, Becky Huber. Becky then keeps it all very organized for us, to have during the next class. Becky is not an expert on the technology involved in ITV classes; she has saved us from many confusing times with ITV and does a wonderful job at getting everything prepared for us, but there have been a few incidents where having that extra step has caused homework returns and assignments not to arrive at the right time."
Christianson said she's had to adapt her teaching style for ITV. In a face-to-face class, she might move among the rows of students, interacting with them and answering questions. In the ITV lab she has to stand in one spot so all the kids can see her.
"I'm pretty much stuck behind a desk," Christianson said. "That took a long time to get used to. I was used to being on the floor and seeing the kids up close."
Christianson has students in her classroom in Mohall, while the other classes can be seen on the big screen at the front of the room. Students in the other towns can see the teacher and their classmates in other towns on that screen and vice versa.
The technology enables kids in different towns to practice speaking Spanish to each other.
"It is also really fun to have classes with students from other towns," said Klokstad. "ITV has never caused me to feel disconnected or apathetic."
Any discipline problems are also handled by the adult who monitors the class in the towns it is being broadcast to. Klokstad said students aren't always above texting to each other or talking to each other during class.
Christianson said there haven't been that many problems. Kids sign a behavior contract before they sign up for the class and are usually well behaved.
The North Dakota Educational Technology Council has received a $392,277 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to upgrade distance learning classrooms in 46 schools across the state, according to a press release. New equipment will replace older video technology that is no longer serviceable and out of date. The grant funds will be matched by state funds to purchase and install the video classroom equipment.
Christianson said it will be nice to have updated equipment for ITV, though she isn't sure exactly what Mohall will be receiving.
Mohall is among the schools that will receive funding. Other area schools receiving funding will include Carrington, Goodrich, Harvey, McClusky, New Rockford-Sheyenne, Newburg-United, St. John, Standing Rock, Surrey, Granville, Towner, Westhope, Beulah, Center-Stanton, Garrison, Glenburn, Halliday, Hazen, Kenmare, Berthold, Max, Parshall, Turtle Lake-Mercer, Underwood and Wilton High Schools.
The technology upgrades will be instituted over the next year.
Rural schools offer courses over interactive television. More than 3,100 high school students are enrolled in classes delivered via video. Some rural schools have found it difficult to hire qualified teachers and the video network enables schools to reliably send and receive courses by video, thus sharing math, science and other teachers with neighboring districts.