Sophomore John Driver is recovering from a back injury that has kept him out of school for nearly two months.
After Driver was out of school for a week, principal Mike Culberson and Angie Ingram, coordinator of special education, wanted to try Skype as a solution.
“It is great to have the technology accessible when necessary, but nothing replaces classroom instruction time,” Culberson said.
Skype is a voice-over-internet video conferencing program.
Driver is also deaf and has been assisted by sign language interpreter Daniel Eimers for five years.
Driver went on “homebound” status on Feb. 8. Complications from surgery extended the time he would be away from class.
Ingram called Culberson, concerned about Driver missing that much class time.
She recalled that a Skype interview was conducted with an LaFayette High graduate on the first day of the school year.
Culberson and Driver’s teachers determined that the existing technology could make it possible.
“We were a little worried about connectivity on both ends,” Culberson said.
The following day Eimers set up the system and math teacher Wesley Jackson began the first Skype-enabled lesson.
Fortunately internet download speed hasn’t been an issue, according to Eimers.
“Being out that long he would get too far behind in school work,” Eimers said. “I go into the class, get all of his work and interpret through Skype.”
Eimers uses a WiFi-enabled laptop to attend each of the classes, including biology, math II and U.S. history.
His third block math class is the most important,” Eimers said. “When you talk about math you really need to be a part of the class.”
Eimers set up Driver’s home computer and began signing lessons weeks ago.
Lighting issues in classrooms posed the only slight hurdle for Eimers’ laptop, which was remedied by using well-lit areas and a lamp.
“It gets him to be a part of the class,” Eimers said. “The teachers don’t mind if students say hi to (John) when there is a break so he can stay connected, as long as they aren’t interrupting class.”
Recently classmates Misty Collins, Kristina Bowers and Cassidy Wallin showed Driver the photosynthesis project in its third day of growth.
Biology teacher Pamela Wright and the three students cringed as the bean containers were opened and emitted a foul stench. Driver laughed with his classmates as they told him to be grateful he couldn’t smell the project.
“It is truly a great way for students to remain connected with the teacher, the class, and the content,” Ingram said.
Eimers also scans many handouts and puts them into Dropbox, a file-sharing program used for Driver to access all materials and quizzes.
“What I have just interpreted in class, he is able to actually see (lesson handouts) like five minutes later through the use of Dropbox,” Eimers said.
Another Skype program called Screen share allows Eimers to utilize the school’s “smart boards” to review work with Driver.
Other teachers helped Driver by allowing Eimer to use the smart boards during their open periods.
Remotely linking the classroom via computer hasn’t been done previously in the school system, according to Culberson.
There are no formal plans to regularly use Skype with homebound students as of yet.
“This tool holds lots of potential to be an addition to the traditional homebound services provided by teachers,” Ingram said.
“His grades have (improved) dramatically during this time,” Culberson said. Driver has improved his grades in two classes by nearly 20 percent, according to Culberson.