Hoping To Make a “Web 2.0” Difference In A Child’s Life

About a month ago I was called to the office at my school (no I wasn’t in trouble) and I was informed that I was getting a new fourth grade student – not unusual at an “At Risk” school. Several years ago I had 21 changes in my classroom in one year – 11 new students entered and 10 students moved. What was unusual was that I was told I would probably never see this student.
“Well the student has leukemia and is undergoing chemo treatments and her immune system is shot – so she is being schooled by the home studies teacher, but she has to be placed in a classroom for administrative reasons and we chose yours.”

Later that day our school counselor came by with her file and I asked her if the girl’s family happened to have an internet connection at home because maybe we could include her in at least some class activities and lessons by having her “Skype“ into our classroom. Ann asked a few questions and left.

When I returned to my classroom from morning recess duty a bit later, there was a file sitting in my chair (probably because there was no room to be found on my desk). Inside I found a grant that Ann had already filled out and submitted to pay for a DSL line for the girl’s house and a web cam.

I thought I had an iBook that would do the job for the computer at her house – and that we were on our way. Unfortunately, the iBook is only 600 Mhz (which will support the iSight camera they got her, but Video Skype requires 800Mhz) – NOTE – I can’t do iChat because AOL instant messenger is blocked by the school district and I’d rather use a Mac because my whole class is using Mac laptops running Panther (OS 10.3.9) and it will be easier to give her directions and for her to follow along if we are using the same machines and software + we have to use Appleworks 6 because it is the only word processor that we have a license for and the online word processors don’t have some of the features I’d like – and I’ve got too much going on right now to learn and teach a new piece of software. We will use an HP computer in class with a web cam because that is mandated by the school district (another reason iChat is out and Skype is in – I need software that is cross-platform).

So we have feelers out for a Mac with at least an 800Mhz processor – we’re in the process of informing local media to see if that will help scare up the hardware we need. I haven’t told my own class about any of this yet – until I’m more sure this will all come together. I have a feeling, if I get this set-up to work, that they will benefit at least as much as she will. I must say that our IT department is totally supportive of this endeavor so I am optimistic.

I’m in the throes of setting up a classroom blog with Blogmeister (thanks Dave!) and I’m hoping to include her. Since our field trip last week we have been writing poems and journal entries that will become our first blog entries once I have the time to get that up and running. Busy, “Messy,” times here which is why I haven’t been posting as much of late. I’ll keep you posted on how things go.

UPDATE: 5:30pm PST – a local TV news person here just emailed me that she thinks she has a computer for us to use. : )

UPDATE: Saturday 12/9/06 AM – Turns out instead of donating a computer someone has offered to pay for a computer – I guess they will tell me who later. I like that it is someone in our local community though. : )

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11 thoughts on “Hoping To Make a “Web 2.0” Difference In A Child’s Life

  1. First, here in my school no one would ever set up a web cam or anything else, tho we should….that was my first gut thought. So thank goodness the child is coming to you. perfect place. i can imagine so much withthe other children coming to know the “Child in our Empty Seat”. i can see yo creating a place and putting something in your room like a 3-D avatar…maybe a toy? It would think when you do introduce this to your children it will be the most powerful thing . Illness and it’s assosiated issues in our culture are so boundaried and so difficult. Children percieve all of our desire to deny to them the real truths, but of course they know them, they live lives. I am so glad you chose to share this, you must write updates . I would like to help. Create a little donation thing maybe? On your site? Or is that not allowed…

    The last few years I’ve battled health issues. Sometimes the sadest thing is not having the energy I need or simply the unexpected nature of how it goes. Technology allows me to continue to feel that I have connection, voice. It is in a great sense free of so many things that are limitations. I hope you get it all together.

    ButI must say, as I often think it, what an extrodinary teacher you are.

  2. The difference you make here may be extraordinary, and not just in the life of the student who is joining your class. The communication dynamics that emerge out of the classroom blogging community, I predict, will engage all the kids in learning a great deal from one another. Please continue to write about this turn of events. I’m sure there will be a lot for us all to learn from your experience with it.

  3. Great work Brian, this is super, and thanks for posting the updates as well. I’ll be staying tuned, good luck! I agree that Skype as a cross-platform desktop videoconferencing solution is one of the most exciting, powerful, and promising technologies to be placed in the hands of learners yet. Your work with it in this context will hopefully open doors of learning not only for your students, but also for other educators and administrators who remain ignorant and resistant to the learning opportunties technology can enable.