September 13, 2011 5 Comments
Our school elevator is broken, and as a result our students who are wheelchair bound cannot access the second floor of the building. This is fine for most but there is one boy in particular who has two of his classes on the second floor. I overheard some members of staff discussing this problem. “I suppose we could video tape the lessons and he could watch them later,” seemed to be the best solution. I suggested that we find a way to have the student be part of the class by using a webcam with Skype. The reaction was, “Can we do that?”
I went to Best Buy to pick up a webcam. On the way over, I phoned Danny Mass (@dannymaas) to get his advice. He suggested that we use a Blue Eye Ball 2.0 webcam because in the classroom, sound quality would be an issue. I purchased this webcam then came back to the school to test it. I met with our computer tech to install skype on the two teacher computers. Skype is blocked by our district filters, so that caused a few problems, at first. Once we had Skype installed, I created a generic Skype account that could be used by the two teachers. Next, we installed Skype on a laptop for the student to use. He already had a Skype account, so that was helpful. The test went great and we were all impressed with the sound quality. The student was in a teacher prep area on the first floor of the school. This student has a full time TA so he made arrangements with the teachers to get powerpoint slides, readings, and handouts.
This morning, we were able to include this student in his classes for the first time in a week, using Skype…a truly powerful (and 21st century) moment.
Here’s the most important part…the reflective piece. This situation has taught/reinforced a few things for me:
- Anything is possible. If you want it…create it.
- Do what you think is right…not what is easiest. Great leaders never say, “What is the least that I can do.”
- Work collaboratively. This situation involved at least 5 adults and over 60 students.
- Don’t be scared to ask for help. There are people who have unique knowledge and experience. I would not have been able to pull this off by myself…
- Always do what is best for students! Recording the lessons would have worked but that would have been a punishment for the student to have to view these lessons after the fact. With the Skype solution, he is able to interact with the class and ask questions.
- Celebrate the small victories! This was a great opportunity not only for a student to be included but for two teachers and 60 kids to see technology as a learning tool rather than an instrument of socialization.
Just had to share!