Carencro High pioneers in fiber optic education
* By MARSHA SILLS
* Advocate Acadiana bureau
* Published: Apr 6, 2010 - Page: 7B
Technology has changed the way classrooms look, how educators teach and how students learn. And one group of students, at Carencro High, is shaping the next generation of changes in the classroom, using fiber-optic technology.
For the past year, students in Carencro High's Academy of Information Technology have been part of a project called FiberKids.
The project pairs the students with Louisiana Public Broadcasting, the Lafayette Utilities System, Bay Area Video Coalition and Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise to test broadband capabilities in the classroom.
The project is intended to test live streaming, high-definition capabilities for school conferences, lectures and field trips.
Students are encouraged to explore the uses of fiber-optic technology in the classroom.
On March 20, the FiberKids project was recognized by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with its My Source Education Innovation award in Washington, D.C.
The national accolade was recognized closer to home during a recent joint meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board and Lafayette Consolidated Council.
"Hopefully, we will be able to replicate what we're doing across the nation," Academy Director Kit Becnel said at the meeting.
Becnel and the FiberKids project are known in the broadband community, council member Don Bertrand said at the meeting.
Bertrand, City-Parish President Joey Durel and other city officials were invited to a broadband public interest workshop at Google's Washington, D.C., offices.
"We did not have to tell them who you were," Bertrand said to Becnel. "She's setting the course in the entire country on the use of broadband in education."
During the meeting, School Superintendent Burnell Lemoine noted: "Why us? Why Carencro High School?
"The response was: We were the only academy set up or in the position in the United States to do this kind of project."
The school is tapped into the supercomputing power of the LITE Center, a link on the statewide fiber-optic network called the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative.
Louisiana research centers are linked to a larger fiber network, the National Lambda Rail, which links research institutions across the country.
Those connections set Lafayette apart from other communities, said Joaquin Alvardo, senior vice president of diversity and innovation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, on a visit to Lafayette last fall.
The FiberKids partnership extends 2,100 miles to the Bay Area Video Coalition, a public media access station in San Francisco.
This summer, students will deliver content using the high-speed connections from Lafayette's public media access station at Acadiana Open Channel to the Bay Area Video Coalition.
"This will be the first project of its kind where students will have high-definition, real-time interaction and push their data sets and content back and forth," Becnel said.
Students will "push" or deliver content from one site to another with students at each site contributing to the project.
"It will be as if they were in a classroom working side-by-side on a project," Becnel said.
This summer will provide the "real test-bed" for the project, Becnel said.
The attention of the national honor by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is expected to attract more partners to the project, Becnel said.
"I think not only nationwide, but globally, all eyes are on Lafayette and the capabilities: fiber to the home, education, public media, online, on the air," she said. "This is going to be huge ... as far as education and education redesign goes."
Marsha Sills covers education for the Acadiana bureau. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.