Web cameras and fast internet connections are creating new ways of keeping children with long-term illnesses connected to their regular classes and classmates. Schools are experimenting with setting up cameras in classrooms and using the internet to allow children who are hospitalized or homebound to watch and participate in certain classroom activities. The classroom activities can be shown live or as videotapes provided to the sick child.

Educators say cameras and videotapes provide a much richer and more meaningful experience for absent children than the education they are commonly provided—televised lectures beamed into children’s hospitals and rehabilitation centers. However, educators are quick to praise hospitals and cyber-learning organizations for trying to provide any form of ongoing education.

School districts benefit by supporting the camera-video arrangements. Most districts pay teachers to work with students in their homes during recovery periods. But that’s expensive, and few districts have the resources to provide more than a few hours per week of this specialized instruction. Therefore, any other educational program that the school can devise—such as web connections, eMail, video, or even speaker telephones—can be very cost-effective, particularly if the district already owns equipment that was purchased for other uses.

The Talia Seidman Foundation in Newtown, Pa., is leading the drive to encourage administrators and teachers about using technology to keep sick children in touch with their classmates. The issue is growing in importance, foundation leaders say, because so many children who have major illnesses like cancer now survive because treatment has become so much more effective. Keeping these children linked to their old environments aids in treatment and recovery and also helps them re-enter their “normal” life. Furthermore, the healthy students in school learn valuable lessons about illness and health by maintaining contact with their classmate.

abstracted from “Efforts Link Sick Children to Classes”
Education Week, December 5, 2001