Carrying on in Columbus

28th June 1996 at 01:00
It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission," jokes Betsy Sidorenko, the co-ordinator of the ACOT teacher-development centre at West High School, Columbus, which has been running for five years. She is referring to the opportunistic attitude required to push ahead with innovation.

West High School, with just over 1,000 pupils, 50 per cent of them from minority families, is in the 16th largest urban district in the United States. It is in a working-class area of Columbus where, its own teachers insist, it is not safe to walk the streets after dark.

With 10 years' experience of innovation behind it, West High is one of the original ACOT schools. A themed, cross-curricular team-teaching approach has been pioneered in the four ACOT classrooms by the nine teachers and 120 pupils. Teachers are encouraged to "block" teach. For example, a science and maths teacher could block two periods and teach the students together, using the expanded time to employ a range of learning methods. They feel they achieve more than they can with the traditional role of one teacher imparting information to the whole class at one time.

The ACOT classrooms have proved their worth, with improved academic results, a more independent approach to learning among the students and, most importantly, a higher percentage of students going on to college than in the rest of the school. Its teaching methods are now due to be integrated into the rest of the school. "ACOT is a high school within a high school," says Sidorenko. "Now we want to bring the rest of the school in."

Students have access in class to the most up-to-date computer technologies, while they are lent some of the older models for use at home. Laptops are used in school but students cannot take them home for fear of becoming crime targets.

Where computer company initiatives in education are often seen as public relations exercises, the ACOT programme has earned the respect and involvement of independent educationists.

As Ohio links all its classrooms to the international networks in a fully budgeted, statewide programme, West High will play a pivotal role in providing teacher support to schools all over the state. It already does as much for the other US schools in the ACOT project.

The first state-wide communications project - the Learning Community Link - is already under way, bringing together schools in the cities, countryside and in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in the south. They will use a range of technologies in a cross-curricular study of the state's rivers. It brings together disparate partners from education and industry, with a pre-service training element and independent evaluation.

* Apple has published a number of reports and videos on its ACOT programme.

More information from Apple, tel: 0181 569 1199

* Apple Web site: http:www.apple.comdefault.html

* West High e-mail: K0114@applelink.apple.com

* Web information:

http:www.ed.govpubsEdReformStudiesEdTechwest acot.html

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