Swindon Advertiser – Virtual Lesson beats the icy blast – Updated

UPDATE: Mrs Plested is being interviewed live on BBC Wiltshire radio at 5.15 on Thurs 14th Jan 2010, about virtual lessons conducted when the school was closed. It’s on 103.5FM,104.3FM and DAB.

Swindon Advertiser recently published the following article about South Marston Primary School

MODERN technology in Swindon could soon put an end to education-free days during school closures.

On Thursday a number of children at South Marston Primary School took part in an innovative home lesson via the wonders of the internet – complete with a teacher, an in-home science experiment and a question and answer period.

Victoria Plested, a year four teacher at the school, started the initiative to create a lesson plan on Wednesday night intending to supplement children’s learning during the school’s two-day snow closure.

At 9.30am sharp Mrs Plested’s image was broadcast live into 10 year five and six pupils’ homes via webcam through a new internet-software the school is piloting called Merlin.

After the lesson children were able to receive guidance, via email or webcam, before setting about their tasks – which included how long ice would take to melt under different conditions.

At 1.30pm the children, aged nine to 11, were once again in front of their computers to explain their findings to their classmates and Mrs Plested.

Head teacher Alison Lowe said she was not at all surprised at the take-up, considering children at her school are constantly using the website for after-school and weekend learning.

She said: “We had 10 out of 30 children in the class taking part, but would have had more if the internet connection in other pupils’ homes had worked properly.

“I emailed all the parents the night before to explain our plan and along with the lesson a discussion area was set up and pupils were able to upload photos.

“This is the first time we have used it during school closure, but because it was successful we will likely use it again.

“This software is great, besides snow closure days teachers can upload extra information about what the children are studying in class and upload safe websites that pertain to the lessons they are conducting in class.”

Pupil Catherine Gullen, 10, from Old Town, said the lesson was fun.

She said: “I found out that on a heater it takes about 30 minutes for ice to melt.

“And after we were finished it made everything snow related more interesting – when I was out playing later on we were trying to imagine how long it would take for the igloo we built to melt.”

The original article by Jeremy Grimaldi is available here.

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