By Jillian Snoznik
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Valley High School’s superintendent is currently making exchanges with China in order to expand educational ideas between the two countries.
Valley High School’s superintendent George Batterson had been in contact with a Chinese educator while he was superintendent at a school in New York. His former school district was starting to get involved in an exchange of students and teachers with China, which didn’t involve technology. When he came to Pennsylvania, he talked to the Chinese educator about doing exchanges here in the New Kensington Arnold School District.
“Our school district here is one of the leading districts of technology in Pennsylvania,” Batterson said. The school has spent $1.8 million on technology over the last 2 years, giving the kids great opportunities to expand their horizons. Each student in the high school is provided with a laptop and each classroom has a smart board.
“With this new technology, I thought it would be nice if we could have Skype interactive programs with the Chinese students and be able to communicate with them on a daily basis,” he said.
When Batterson proposed his ideas to China, they were interested in the idea of communicating with students and teachers.
“We’ve done some things with it, but we have to do a lot more,” Batterson said. The high school plans on sending one of their teachers to China this year to talk to the Chinese technology experts about ways to have regular communication with them.
“Our goal is to try to encourage China to expand upon their technology and make it compatible to ours,” said Batterson. Many of the teachers in the New Kensington Arnold School District are being trained to do online learning courses. “What we hope to do is have the Chinese students take our online courses to get credit and them do the same thing for us,” he said.
Batterson is in the beginning of his third year as Valley’s superintendent. These exchanges with China have been going on for about two and a half years. The major players in these exchanges involve the teachers and students in the New Kensington Arnold School district, as well as China.
“Our partnership is not really about us buying technology from them, it’s about us being able to communicate with them,” Batterson said.
Batterson went on to explain that no hardware or software has been exchanged. They hope to encourage China to purchase the Apple computers they are using in order for the American students and Chinese students to communicate.
“It’s more of the idea that we are going to use technology, and they will too be able to exchange educational ideas,” he said.
Last year China sent nearly 35 students, educators, and administrators to visit the school district. Valley has visited China once, and they plan to go again in November. Their visit to China involved tours of landmarks in Beijing and schools throughout the area. In the classrooms, the American students were able to participate, interact, and learn with the Chinese students.
Last year’s trip to China was provided by the state of Pennsylvania, who gave a grant for $78,000. This year they were able to receive $21,000 from a foundation in Pittsburgh. The students and teachers, including Batterson, have to raise $1,000 each and the foundation will pay for the other $1,000. In all, the trip will cost $2,000 per person.
China plans to bring a large delegation to visit the New Kensington Arnold School District next May. Valley High School hopes to send another delegation around this time next year. “It is hard to get money but we hope that we will be able to get other foundations to fund us,” Batterson said.