BOCES and eleven regional school districts have been awarded the USDA RUS Distance Learning Grant, totaling $466,686.
Last week District Superintendent Lynda Quick, Esq. learned that Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES has been awarded a grant for $466,686 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grant, known as the Rural Utility Service (RUS) Distance Learning grant, will be implemented by Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES and eleven area school districts to upgrade video conferencing equipment and other technologies.
The equipment upgrades will provide all three Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers, as well as Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Cuba-Rushford, Franklinville, Friendship, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Olean, Salamanca, Scio, and Wellsville Central School Districts, with new portable, high definition video conference capabilities that schools will use to provide students and teachers with a variety of distance learning opportunities including videoconference courses, virtual field trip experiences, and expanded access to nanotechnology capabilities.
This is not the first USDA RUS Distance Learning grant received by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and component school districts. The Distance Learning Team at CA BOCES has been applying for and receiving RUS grants since 1997, resulting in eight previous awards and millions of dollars in equipment for our schools.
“Over the years, USDA funding has built a virtual school in our region," stated Lynda Quick. Over forty virtual classes connect via video conference every single day, allowing schools to share the instructional expertise of their outstanding faculty members. Additionally, hundreds of students to take other online courses because of this funding. These virtual courses are critical in expanding offerings in small rural schools that, over time, have been stripped of the ability to offer many (or any) AP, college credit, or elective courses to their students.
Lynda Quick also shared, "This award helps put a dent in leveling the playing field. It helps our students build a transcript that can be competitive in the post-secondary arena." Grant implementation will begin immediately.
Are you looking for resources and don’t know where to turn? Maybe you have some idea of what you are looking for and don’t have the time to cull through the myriad options available. At the CABOCES Learning Resources center in Allegany, we will have a training in January for the teachers in our two county area, highlighting all that our Staff Specialists here can do for you and your students.
Learning Resources has recently had an increase in the amount of resources being used by our component schools, but there are still so many things being underutilized. So as part of this training, the Staff Specialists went through each branch of Learning Resources and how they can assist with curriculum and content, utilization of online and digital support, as well as providing tangible resources to use in the physical classroom. The teachers who have gone through the training before have been amazed at the hundreds of thousands of resources available and how each department can either assist with or provide instruction on the various aspects of digital resources and technology, STEM, Library services, and distance learning.
Both STEM and the Digital Media program provide kits that can be used in the classroom to aid instruction and provide hands-on activities. Online resources accompany those kits, as well as accessing the SNAP system to find additional support. The Distance Learning branch has many components, including Moodle and Mahara, credit recovery, virtual field trips, collaborative classrooms, online learning, and Adobe Connect. Additionally, our Library Resources offers support to all 22 school libraries in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, implementation of the inter-library loan system, and provides online usage of Britannica and World Book.
If you are not utilizing any of these resources, only using some of them, or need to know more, come join us on January 12 at our Learning Resources center in Allegany, NY.
By: Alexandra L. Freer, CA BOCES
Online learning has had a twenty-one percent increase in enrollment numbers since 2014 alone. The distance learning team at CA BOCES has been busy traveling to many districts helping students with their online classes. The most popular courses this year are Computer Science, Psychology, Sociology, Veterinary Science, Criminology, Game Design, German, Creative Writing, Engineering Design, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Law and Order, and Personal Finance. Although these are the most popular, students are also learning about astronomy, sports marketing, digital art, 3D Modeling and animation, world religions, mythology and folklore, social problems facing the world, and many other diverse and remarkable things.
Every year the online enrollment numbers seem to increase due to students’ curiosity shifting and job markets broadening the skills required for employment. Students say that online courses give them a chance to try out many things that aren’t offered in their districts. As juniors try to determine where their enthusiasm lies for future college degrees, they use online courses to test out content areas and to deepen their skills in areas they are already passionate about.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Over the past six months, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a mentor for Patrick Coyle as he wrote his way through an online English credit recovery course. Patrick is an intelligent young man who loves fishing, hunting and working on engines. We studied together once or twice a week to help hone his English skills as he worked on his class. Patrick had a study hall set aside for his course, but was also willing to meet me after school to work on specific areas he was struggling to understand.
Jamie is Patrick’s mother and she is rightfully proud of her son and his accomplishments. I got to know them both over the time that I spent at Andover and enjoyed that time immensely. I sat down with Jamie and Patrick at our last tutoring session to find out how they felt about Patrick’s online experience. I wanted to know how Patrick felt as a student taking an online course and how Jamie felt as a parent of a student taking the course. Patrick said, “It was pretty straight forward, not very difficult. It was a lot easier for me to work on my own than it was to sit in a classroom. I’m easily distracted.” He laughed a little then.
“Thinking back, how did you feel about the program going into it?” I asked.
“I wasn’t really sure. I was kind of nervous because I hadn’t really done an online class before. I don’t know. I knew I was going to need help because I usually tend to get off track. I just wasn’t sure about it at first.”
Jamie said almost the same thing when I asked her how she felt as a parent, “I wasn’t sure, going into it. I didn’t know what all it involved.” But as the course progressed and she saw how it worked, she began to really like it. She said, “Well, what I really liked was him being able to do the work here in the computer lab. It was such a help. The biggest benefit for me was being able to do the online part here.”
Patrick said it was beneficial to him for a different reason. He said, “It gave me an opportunity to work on it by myself. Whenever I could work on it, I could go and work on it. It was a lot easier for me to sit at a computer to do it than to sit in a classroom and do it.” He would also recommend it to other students who have a similar learning style – students who are self-motivated, able to push themselves, prefer working at their own pace and are willing to ask for help, if needed.
I then asked them both how they felt about feedback they received from their online teachers and coordinators. Patrick said, “My feedback from my teacher, she always gave me feedback. It would take a day or two, but she always gave me good feedback on what I wrote about. And you always gave me good feedback when we were working and it was always a great help to have you here and help me through this.”
Jamie said, “Yes, I mean with the emails saying this is how he did, he needs to work on this, he needs to add more to this, and you know, with somebody correcting it and then saying, you did well, but it could be better if you do these things, and then he could take that and then add more and take their constructive criticism and build on that to make it a better paper.”
Finally, I asked them whether they would recommend online classes to other students, teachers, and administration and I received a big and wonderful yes. In Jamie’s words, “I would. Actually, administration, the superintendent who is no longer here – he retired last year, he actually suggested it to us because Patrick got hired by BOCES last year to work during the summer and he was so excited about that, so he couldn’t go to summer school and work at BOCES, so the superintendant actually told us about this program. I had no idea. Yes, I would recommend it, especially for someone who has plans for the summer, whether it be a job or traveling or whatever. It worked out great.”
Then Jamie went on to say that the program was very beneficial for Patrick, “I’ve told you that with Patrick getting constructive criticism from you, it meant so much more to him than coming from mom. In the way that you presented it to him, saying, you did good with this, but we need to work on this and here are some suggestions, now you go do it and you take the suggestions and do what you think you need to do. I could see, and my mother-in-law mentioned that she could see, such a difference in Patrick with his self esteem, saying, you know, I can do this. He just has a whole different attitude.”
And that is what online learning opportunities are about – helping students feel successful and achieve their goals.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES