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Online Course Takes Students Beyond Classroom

Using a cell phone to go online in class would usually draw the ire of any educator, but Mamaroneck High School teacher Nick Cucchiarella requires it.

The head of Mamaroneck High School's APPLE program designed one of four online elective courses, which were selected by the Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES for a pilot program beginning this fall.

"I had this course in mind for a while and I said 'this would be a great venue to deliver this instruction,'" Cucchiarella said. "So I came up with a course description and a basic idea."

Cucchiarella's course is called Making a Lasting Impression: Architecture Across the Centuries and Today. It was voted on by the eight districts who submitted proposals. The course will not take place in a classroom and the only time the students will meet is at an orientation session and a scheduled field trip to New York City.

"It's not just a text-driven online course," said Cucchiarella, who taught architectural drawing for 20 years. "It will be audio tools, video tools, webcams, some Skype usage. It's a combination of many different experiences for kids."

The program centers on the concept of blended learning, which refers to the use of technology to expand the learning experience beyond the classroom. Students from any participating BOCES school can enroll in any of the fours programs, regardless of which school the instructor is from.

The other online elective courses chosen were Environmental Physics: A Citizen's Guide to the Planet, Wanted: Solutions to Problems of the 21st Century and Take Action! Support A Sustainable Community.

Ten students from MHS and 20 students from other participating BOCES schools have already enrolled.

"I'll lay the work out, the students will independently accomplish the work and upload the work for me to view," Cucchiarella said. "In terms of the organization and the activities, they need to be carefully guided so that kids can work independently. We're trying to create a common experience for all of the kids."

Students will take a field trip to Manhattan to meet with the architects and engineers responsible for the new Tower 2 at the World Trade Center site. They’ll also receive a private tour of the skyscraper museum. The course will also include virtual tours of historical buildings around the world.

"I think it's an intriguing topic," Cucchiarella said. "Anytime you talk about the great monuments of man, it seems like everyone has some interest in the field of architecture."

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