Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Futuristic program gets nod for second year

by John Halverson

May 24, 2012

What will education look like in the future?

One model might come from ideas like Global 21 which just got the OK Monday night to go into its second year at Big Foot High School.

The program headed by vice principal Brian Lawton and Social Studies teacher Pat Hollihan combines several disciplines — in this case English and Social Studies — into a learning process where the answer isn't as important as the process.

"The answer is less important now because the answer is in the palm of their hands," said Lawton, alluding to the easy access students now have to information using electronic devices.

"We want them to ask good questions," he told the school board.

The teachers ask challenging questions like what is the global impact of technology. Then the students develop projects that explore the subject. For instance, Global 21 student Quincy Shoultz, a junior, told the school board that he selected endangered species as one of his topics.

The projects include several aspects. One, for instance, has students writing a persuasive research paper and also create a public service announcement using video and audio equipment. In an e-mail Tuesday, Lawton noted that there are a "series of driving questions we pose to the students. Their projects require significant research and must respond to the question."

"Through their research they discovered all sorts of differences and interesting tangents," he said in his e-mail.

New media was readily available for the students to use. Students had laptops 24/7, several iPads in the classroom, a virtual classroom as well as a SMART board. Skype was used to access resource people from around the world. Lawton commented that it's like having an expert "step into your classroom from around the world."

The classes ran from 7:30 to 11 each morning in a special pod of four classrooms that included couches, access to a small refrigerator and use of a myriad of electronic devices.

Students seemed especially engaged in their topic the teachers said. Big Foot Principal Mike Hinske lauded the program, calling himself a frequent visitor. He said the students were so focused they barely knew he was in the room. All three talked about how the program encouraged time management which Hinske cited as a key need for high school students.

"This is bringing learning back to the child," Hinske said.

Lawton said the kids even learned more about technology through the program.

"And I can guarantee you Pat and I taught them nothing about that," Lawton joked, crediting the program with educating kids on a subject they're already expert in.

"When given time and access to technology, students will grow beyond what most of us can teach them about those tools," Lawton said.

Somewhat surprisingly, the program drew students from a cross section of the school, not just the gifted and talented.

The school board unanimously approved continuing the program for a second year.

Quick 50 program

The board also approved the Quick 50 program, which rewards students for providing anonymous tips about drugs, alcohol and weapons.

The program is done as part of the Walworth County Crimestoppers. Walworth Police Chief Andy Long and Joe Kirkpatrick, who is involved in the program at Elkhorn High School, spoke on behalf of Quick 50.

They cited a similar tip program designed to provide information about gangs cut the number of gang incidents from 13 to 0 since 2009.

A new twist in the Quick 50 Program makes reporting tips faster and even more anonymous by allowing for information to be provided through electronic devices using a code number instead of actual names.

Board member Edward Hayden supported the program, but added that while the $50 program had merit the money wasn't the driving force for most students.

"Most of our students are law abiding and will provide information just because it's the right thing to do," Hayden said.

Computer attack

On a different matter, Big Foot High School Principal Mike Hinske told the board about an attack on the school's Internet services.

Over the last six weeks the school computers have been inundated with information that has overloaded the server. Working with Internet provider WiscNet, the school has temporarily shut down external access to the system. In-school access is unaffected, Hinske said.

There is no way to determine the reason or the origin of the attacks because it's of a global nature, Hinske said. The school is in the process of bringing back the system slowly in hopes that it can return to full use.

In other action, the board elected Ann Zubow as its new president, much to the joy of Sue Pruessing who had held the job for 12 years and had hoped someone else would take over.