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Students in Michigan connect with authors.

Last fall, students at Michigan's Berrien County Intermediate School District read The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. They wrote about the author and his book in an online blog. But the best part of the unit was when they interviewed Stovall via a live videoconference.

This blending learning event is part of the five-year-old ASK (Authors Specialist and Knowledge) program. "The videoconference is the driving force to get students to read with more comprehension and purpose," says Jim Wenzloff, technology consultant for the Macomb (Mich.) Intermediate School District. Students prepare questions ahead of time and are not allowed to ask yes or no questions or anything for which they can easily find an answer. "I'm always amazed by the questions," says Wenzloff. "The authors frequently remark on how impressed they are with the depth of the questions."

The ASK program runs from fourth grade through high school. Each grade does one or two videoconferences a year, ranging from storybooks to poetry. Wenzloff is convinced that the journaling the students do in the blog is key to the program's success. "We ask them not to just summarize but to think about a character or something that happened in the book and tie it in with their lives."

Of course, the seemingly costly or technological]y challenging videoconferencing component might discourage schools from starting a similar program. Elaine Shuck, the education market coordinator for Polycom, which helps set up the videoconferences, helps teachers learn how to use the equipment. She secures the authors, finds additional teachers and classes to participate and makes sure that everyone is able to connect.,
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Title Annotation:Berrien County Intermediate School District
Author:Ullman, Ellen
Publication:District Administration
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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