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Internet brings school to students

Many of the nation's teachers deliberate on how to bring technology into their classrooms.

But Carol Setzer and Paulette Moses are using technology to bring their students into the classroom.

The Ballentine Elementary teachers have both used two Internet applications to connect with students from their homes.

Setzer had used SKYPE - a free software application that allows users to participate in videoconferencing - to communicate with her grown children who live in other parts of the state.

So when she found out one of her fourth-graders would be convalescing at home for about 10 days after an appendectomy, she decided to use SKYPE to bring him into the classroom virtually.

"He wasn't going to be gone long enough to be homebound, but enough to lose connection with the class," Setzer said.

A lot of times when students miss school for an extended period, they can make up the work but still feel disconnected from the class, she said. While they're gone, friendships and dynamics in the class continue to evolve, and they miss out on that.

That didn't happen for Collin Harris.

"I felt like I was in the classroom," Collin said. "When I was at home, I still got to see my friends."

And his classmates got to see him.

Collin appeared larger than life on the smart board in front of the class. He could even participate in class discussions by raising his hand.

"He wasn't in the class, but he was in class," said Jackson Crimminger, one of Collin's classmates.

When the class gathered in small groups, Collin participated. "He was in the class with us," Setzer said. "We did this for a few days, and then he was back as if he never had been absent."

Everything fell into place when Setzer found out Collin's parents had the computer and webcam necessary for the videoconferencing and already had a SKYPE account.

In the future, she hopes to have webcams available for parents to check out if needed.

But Setzer said she would only repeat the videoconferencing under the right circumstances.

First, parents must be willing to cooperate. Second, the child must not be hampered by illness.

"I would not do it if the child is sick or has a fever," Setzer said.

Moses uses a different Internet application to communicate with her students weekly.

Cover It Live allows Moses to chat with students seeking academic assistance.

In the past, Moses was available to her students after school if they needed tutoring or help with a subject.

This year, she has appointments that force her to leave the school at 3:45 p.m.

"I felt bad that I couldn't do a lot of tutoring after school," Moses said.

So she found a way to connect with any student who wants help in the evening.

Students can go to Moses' school Web site and log on to Cover It Live. It's like a chat room without a camera, she said.

She asks students questions and answers any they pose of her. She doesn't correct their spelling or grammar - well, most of the time she doesn't - and allows for a bit of silliness as well.

"You get to talk to your friends and sometimes be funny," said Noah Mervak. "One time Ms. Moses asked 'What do you think about gases?' and I said, "They stink.'"

Moses lets families know each Monday what nights she'll be online that week.

"Parents have given me good feedback," she said.

So have the students.

"It's a really good study session," said Ashlyn Aldridge. "I learn a lot from it. I usually get A's when I go on it."

" I like it because it gives us time to study," said Andrew Gallagher. "And when your friends are on, it's even more fun."

- Submitted by Lezlie Patterson for Lexington-Richland 5