By DEBORAH GAYLORD
Special to the Times Union
CASTLETON — Technology plays a key role in studying Chinese at Maple Hill High School.
On a recent day, teacher Mark Hoyt asked a question, and the answer came not from one of the students in his classroom but from Schalmont High School in Rotterdam, one of several schools whose students take part in the class via video link.
In 2007, Schodack district officials joined the BOCES Distance Learning Program, a collaborative that includes 40 school districts in northeastern New York State offering 80 courses. The school invested $100,000 in a distance-learning lab with videoconferencing capabilities and hired Hoyt as a full-time Chinese language teacher. Participating schools pay Schodack a fraction of what it would cost to hire a full-time teacher. This semester, Hoyt is teaching students from Schalmont, Cairo-Durham and Averill Park.
Schodack Superintendent Robert Horan said being part of the BOCES network gives students the chance to take classes they otherwise would not have been able to take, including courses in French, Japanese and the history of the Hudson Valley. It opens other doors as well. Maple Hill was one of three local schools chosen by Capital Region and Questar III BOCES to participate in a cross-cultural exchange with China. A delegation of four Chinese educators and 33 students from Tianjin, China, visited the school in February to observe how American educators teach math and science by engaging students in project-based activities instead of lectures and memorization.
Horan said the school has a rare resource in Hoyt, who lived and worked in China, Taiwan and Thailand before coming to Maple Hill and brings that broader perspective to his classroom role.
“There is a larger world out there, and our students need more than basic skills to function and to compete with what is happening in Asia. When it comes to competing against Asia, we are playing catch-up academically,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt and members of the Maple Hill International Club are planning a 14-day trip to China in the spring of 2012. He and five students joined the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce on a 7-day trip to the country in 2009. Last summer Hoyt went on a State Department-sponsored trip to Changchun, China, with other Chinese language teachers. He said he has seen China transform over the past 20 years.
“Modern China is like the Wild West during the gold rush. Everyone with a big dream is racing there to make it big,” said Hoyt.
[Story and photo used courtesy of the Times Union.]
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