Sunday, June 17, 2007

Skype Makes the Class Whole

While surfing the web, I came across the most amazing story. Brian Crosby was teaching his fourth grade class at Agnes Risley Elementary School near Reno, NV, when he learned he was getting a new student.

Now this is now unusual at his school, as he explains that mobility rate is high in his classes. But, what made this new student unusual is that she was not actually going to attend school at all. Celest McCaskey was had leukemia and, as a consequence, an immune system too weak to attend school.

Mr. Crosby decided to use Skype, a free voice- and video-conferencing software that was launched in 2003, to virtually bring Celest to class. This is even more impressive when you consider that Celeste does not even own a computer. Mr. Crosby and a school counselor found donors for a computer, the DSL line and monthly Internet service.

Crosby's school is designated as "at risk" by the Washoe County School District, with more than 80 percent of the students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. This isn't a district where kids generally have computers at home. Yet, Crosby is doing amazing things with technology in his class. Through funds approved by the 2005 legislature, each student in Crosby's class has their own wireless laptop computer.

They aren't the latest models. The machines are seven years old. But they work.

This makes me think of my own suburban school where we have resources this school may never have. I can only imagine what we would be able to do if our teachers were similarly creative with technology. Clearly the innovation is paramount over the actual equipment.

You might want to watch the newscast of the story, but even better - Mr. Crosby's class created a movie describing their experience.

You can read more about what this teacher is doing on his blog, Learning is Messy. I am very, very impressed.

No comments: