By DAVID GREEN
The communications software Skype is nothing new to Fayette school technology coordinator Becky Short.
Mrs. Short takes a laptop computer to her mother’s nursing home so her mother can talk to her sister. Mrs. Short also keeps in contact with some of her own friends via Skype.
When it came time to help Fayette freshman Kellen Keiser keep up with his studies while he is at home battling leukemia, Mrs. Short knew that Skype was the answer.
At home, Kellen sits in front of a computer with a small web camera and his image appears on a laptop in the classroom. That laptop also has a camera so Kellen can watch what’s going on in the class.
When one class ends, he travels to the next on top of a cart, pushed by a classmate. Two students are in charge of making sure the cart moves from room to room and is positioned in the correct location. There’s nothing left for teachers to think about.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Mrs. Short said. “The only difference between Kellen and the others is that he has four wheels.”
A few initial adjustments needed to be made, Mrs. Short said, such as a lighting change in one room and a microphone for students to use during small group discussions. For small groups or science lab work, Kellen’s laptop is moved off the cart and placed in the appropriate position.
With the school’s wireless internet system, Kellen even talks to friends in the hallway when he’s being wheeled from room to room. One day he was seen running laps around the gymnasium during physical education class.
Getting Kellen to school was a cooperative effort among many parties, Mrs. Short said, from the teachers involved to Kellen’s sister, Emilie, who serves as a courier for his paperwork.
“When a friend is in need, you help,” Mrs. Short said, and she’s seeing the evidence of that assistance.
Kellen said the arrangement is working out well for him and he’s keeping up with his studies. He’s taking mathematics, science, English, Spanish, agriculture and world studies, in addition to gym class.
He has to pay attention to the lesson, because now and then a teacher will call on him just as if he were in the classroom.
Kellen’s situation is the primary use for Skype in the school district, but that’s not the only way it’s proven valuable.
One student’s father is currently working in Scotland and he wants to remain active in his child’s life, so a special conference was set up using Skype. He’ll tune in again when it comes time for parent-teacher conferences.
Mrs. Short has a good friend living in Israel and she hopes to have her speak to a class sometime on Middle East affairs.
She’s looking at other applications for Skype that could benefit the district long after Kellen returns to the classroom.
For now he remains the focus and it’s keeping him on pace with his peers. He’s expected to physically return to the classroom in February, but he’s almost there now.
“Kellen is here today,” Mrs. Short said. “He’s just on a purple cart.”