CARIBOU – Nearly 60 high school students from across Aroostook County are taking a class without seeing a teacher or a classmate. But they’ll have regular contact with both through their computer and the World Wide Web.
This winter, ECO 2000, composed of 13 County school systems, is offering 15 courses through its Web site. Through the Internet, the students will receive assignments, submit homework and have conferences with classmates and teachers in an Internet chat room.
The 4-year-old Internet school is believed to the only one in a public school system in the state.
“These are not traditional classes,” said David Lyons, ECO 2000’s executive director, who goes by “Bubba” on the site’s chat room. “It’s not English 101.”
Students, teachers and administrators met Tuesday at the Caribou Inn and Convention Center for an orientation to the “cyberschool.”
ECO, which started in 1993 as a grant-writing and bulk-purchasing entity as a way to save money and integrate technology into the schools, initiated the cyberschool four years ago with two courses.
Most of the schools involved offer a half-credit toward high school graduation.
Classes offered this year range from a reading and writing course about cruising in Corvettes to investment strategies and Java computer programming. Courses also are offered in poetry, horror fiction and creating an online virtual community.
The classes are considered independent study and done on the students’ own time, according to program organizers.
“This is the only time your teachers are going to see your faces,” Al Morris of Presque Isle told the students. “They won’t see you again until classes end.”
But Morris urged the students to use the chat room, conference site and other means on the Internet to keep in touch with teachers and other students.
“If you do not keep your lines of communications open, you will not do well in this course,” said Morris.
Students interviewed Monday said they signed up for the classes because it sounded “interesting.”
“You normally don’t do something like this,” Anthony Martin of Van Buren said. “It’s something different.”
Teachers are Maine-certified and selected by ECO administration after submitting a proposal for a class, according to Lyons.
One teacher, who previously taught in Van Buren, is teaching his class from Austin, Texas, Lyons said.
Jerry White, superintendent of SAD 33 in St. Agatha, said that in using traditional classroom teaching techniques, 90 percent of students fall asleep.
“With computers, these 90 percent are awake,” said White.
The school’s Web site is located at www.eco2000.org . Click on “cyberschool.”