Four years ago, January 24, 2007, was the first day we Skyped into our classroom a classmate that couldn’t attend school because she had leukemia and the side effects from the chemo therapy she was receiving made it impossible for her to attend school. Through the efforts of a community of people, my 4th graders embarked on an incredible experience using Skype video-conferencing software to include her in our class.

On cue it seems, as I was on morning crosswalk duty in front of our school Thursday, someone … actually 2 people I recognized were amongst about 15 students waiting to cross the street. Celest and her mom crossed and after several big hugs I had a quick conversation with them about how things were going. She is in 8th grade now, has put back all the weight she lost, and has a thick, full head of hair. She is in full remission and doing really well. She even helps counsel kids that have cancer based on her own experience.

The irony is that the street in front of our school is a nightmare of cars and kids and situations that would make you gasp 5 times every morning (it does me), so I was really pre-occupied with crossing kids and their families while Celest and her mom waited to talk to me (URGH!!!), so I wasn’t able to glean as much info as I wish I could have, or take a picture with my phone (dumb, dumb, dumb!) before they had to leave.

Not Just a Skype Story

Every year this “anniversary” comes around and I debate whether to mention it. But, every month I hear from at least someone this story touches … someone that this is a new story for. We tend to forget that many of these technology tools have been around for long enough that some of us have been there and done that 50 or more times … but this is still someone’s cutting edge. So for now, for at least one more year I will mention and remember this anniversary that touched and touches so many lives.

And also know this was not just a Skype story. We used blogs, wikis, Flickr and much more to leverage the entire experience.

But the story doesn’t stop with Celest. Her classmates were just as incredible in their own way. In less than 2 weeks they produced a movie that explained and archived the event for all to learn from. Some of the students that narrated the video didn’t even speak English, but learned their lines, spoken clearly (or we can’t use it) so they could be included. This video has been downloaded close to million times now (perhaps more).

The following year Skype sent a camera crew to film how we did it. Celest had improved and was now attending school “live” with everyone else (NOTE: I keep a class for 3 years – roll them from 4th to 5th to 6th, so Celest was in my 5th grade class too). So they filmed from our classroom and then Celest’s house, she stayed home one day and we recreated the previous year. Two videos (Here and here) were produced that day, and my students got to see how a film crew – including a photograper, lighting, sound specialist and producer do their jobs … they even let the students interview them before they went over to Celest’s house for the afternoon.

So many learning experiences and opportunities for all involved!

Learning is messy!

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