Howard fourth graders travel to NHS library for interactive distance learning experience

Published 7:50 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A group of Howard School fourth graders were exposed to distance learning on Tuesday when they visited Niles High School's library.
The fourth graders participated in a live TV interview with Michigan author Janie Panagopolous, whose latest book is called "Journey Back to Lumber Jack Camp."
The high school library has a distance learning lab, which allows for live TV interaction with other groups that have similar equipment.
Fourth grade students from two other elementary schools were also linked up with the interview.
Cameras allowed the students to see each other in their respective classrooms, as well as allowing the author to the see the students asking her questions.
The author interview was the culmination of a project called A.S.K, offered by the Berrien County Intermediate School District (BCISD).
Kelley Best, the Howard fourth graders' teacher, said the project involved reading the author's book, journaling and preparing questions for the author.
She said the students have been working with the book for a month.
Best said the project taught the students how to form and ask questions properly, going beyond questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no."
But the project has also made the the students prepare for talking in front of an audience.
The author, who has written books for the last ten years, took three questions at a time from each school before rotating to a new school.
The students asked the author questions ranging from "Why do lumber jacks use drafthorses for transporting lumber," to whether the author enjoys bean soup for breakfast.
But the students also asked the author questions about whether she had been bullied at school, and if so, what she had done to deal with it.
Bullying and the rough life of lumber jacks are issues the book deals with.
Janine Lim is an instructional technology consultant at BCISD.
She said the A.S.K project was created by a professor at the University of Michigan.
His idea, she said, was for the students to read a book, prepare questions and then talk to an author.
The neat thing about the students having access to a distance learning lab, Lim said, is that several schools can interview the author without the author having to travel to the different schools.
On Tuesday, 12 schools interviewed the author at different times of the day, Lim said, saving the schools and the author time and money that would have had to be spent on travelling.
Kent, Midland, Muskegon and Berrien County are taking part in the project which runs on the west side of the state for the first time.
The funding used for the program comes from a grant from Polycon, the company that creates the distance learning lab.