By Bill Carroll
Special to The CS&T
When I received the e-mail describing the situation and the parents’ request, I experienced conflicting emotions.
On the one hand, I was told that a third-grade girl, Casey Flanagan, was ill and would miss the first five weeks of school because of treatments in Boston for her cancer. Of course, I was concerned for her health.
On the other hand, the Technology Committee of Sacred Heart School in Royersford was being asked to webcast the third grade class every day so that Casey could stay connected to her classmates, and in fact attend class via the World Wide Web.
It was an exciting challenge presenting a myriad of issues, so with only a week before Casey departed for Boston, we dove in head first.
We quickly researched web cams and found one that was wireless, could double as a web server and also provide two-way audio.
We took advantage of a good working relationship with the public school district, Owen J. Roberts, and requested a loaner laptop computer and web cam for the family to take with them.
Myra Forrest, superintendent of the district, quickly approved the request and we were on our way.
We installed Yahoo Instant Messenger on Casey’s laptop and the PC of her teacher so that Casey could request permission to talk to the class and to receive video from Boston. Casey could even invite her class to view her location through her web cam.
Her teacher would click on a link, Casey’s live video would appear on the classroom Smart Board at Sacred Heart and the children could see their friend and classmate more than 300 miles away.
I was able to view the classroom camera at the end of the day in late September. The children were lined up at the door for dismissal. Each one looked at the camera, waved and said, “Bye Casey.” Then they looked at the Smart Board for her instant message response.
Now Casey has completed her treatments in Boston and is back with her class. While away from home she attended class via the webcast every day and never fell behind in her studies and remained very much a part of her class.
This rewarding project was spearheaded by fellow Sacred Heart technology committee member Juan Portela and the school secretary, Jeanne Schiele. It was supported by Sacred Heart’s pastor, Father Timothy Judge, school principal Dorothy Gudz, Casey’s teacher Donna Stolnacker and the entire technology committee.
Of course, Casey was supported by the prayers of her family and friends.
Anyone who believes that Catholic schools are not as advanced as publicly funded schools should get to know Casey Flanagan and her family, and 27 third graders who know better.
Bill Carroll is a member of the technology committee of Sacred Heart School, Royersford. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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