Teacher honored for bringing school to student via video
By Davy James, Staff Writer
Packet Online for Central Jersey
May 8, 2008
Technology has offered many changes in the educational process, expanding the way information can be exchanged between students and teachers.
For one local teacher in particular, harnessing the power of technology allowed her to bring school into the home of one of her students who was being home-schooled due to illness.
Julie Johnson, a second-grade teacher at Greenbrook Elementary, and her innovative approach has earned her the award of Technologist of the Year from the New Jersey Association for Educational Technology.
"A colleague at the school nominated me and I thought it was funny," Ms. Johnson said. "But I was shocked when I found out I won. They don't normally give the award for a project with a student this young."
Ms. Johnson, who has been teaching at Greenbrook for seven years, was concerned when her young student became ill and his return was unsure. She began talking with the student's mother and they were looking for a way to relieve the student's loneliness and allow him to stay in touch with his friends.
"I had worked as a professor at the Teachers College at Columbia University and had done some video-conferencing there," Ms. Johnson said. "I wondered 'why can't we do this to bring school to the student.' When it comes to reaching students, my principal always says let's find a way, so we did. To make sure the student feels a part of the process and can be a part of the class."
Ms. Johnson, who was in touch with the student's mother on a daily basis, decided to bring the idea to her to see if her idea could be achieved.
"I asked her if I was able to figure out a way to do video-conferencing and bring school to him, would she be interested," Ms. Johnson said. "She said I'll buy a web camera tonight.' "
Ms. Johnson set up a large TV in the class and had a web camera pointed on her class, she said. Through streaming video the ill student was able to rejoin his friends.
"All the kids in the class loved it because it had been three weeks since they'd seen each other," Ms. Johnson said. "They were so excited at seeing him and had so many things to tell him."
Through the project, the student was able to pair up with a partner who was in class to do experiments with weight and balance, which allowed them to do the reporting of the results together, according to Ms. Johnson. She also said the student also would be at home reading a book along with the rest of the class and answering questions just as if he were right there.
"He was a direct part of the lesson and he could share and listen just like everyone else," Ms. Johnson said.
There was a few bumps in the road along the way though.
"The biggest issue we had were the technological glitches," Ms. Johnson said. "When you're going from platform to platform with a Mac and a PC, that's inevitable."
After overcoming the technological problems, the video-conferencing was a huge success for the student and his classmates, according Ms. Johnson.
She will be honored at a dinner Wednesday, where she will receive a $1,000 award. She also will be honored at the NJAET Conference on Oct. 14. However, she said the biggest reward was being able to help a student in need.
"His mom said the video-conferencing is a lifeline for him," Ms. Johnson said. "It's lonely to be home when you're an engaging, thoughtful and imaginative kid. He was so ready for class every morning. For him the greatest thing was when he returned to class four months later there was no catch up because he was there. He feels like he was here because he saw all the jokes and he was with me all day."
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