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The miracle of technology in classrooms

Selma High School’s advanced placement English class hosted a video conferencing interactive event as part of the Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide program, ACCESS, on Thursday for five schools in the region with special guests Kathryn Tucker Windham, author, storyteller, photographer and journalist, and local artist Charlie Lucas, also known as the “Tin Man.”

Classrooms are equipped with television screens, computers and video cameras to connect students with the teacher. Each room also has a facilitator from the school in the classroom.

“It was an enlightening experience,” Windham said. “They were the best behaved group of teenagers.”

Windham spoke to the students about listening to family stories about learning to catalog them.

“I told them to listen and then write them down while they remember them,” Windham said.

She was also very impressed with the students.

“They listened so well, and that’s rare these days,” Windham said. “We’ve almost forgot how to listen.”

Lucas encouraged the students to follow talents and shared his love of art, Windham said. He also donated a copy of his book, “Tin Man,” to the Selma High School library.

One school tuning into the event was Thomasville High School, where Windham graduated from in 1935. She sang the school’s fight song to all the students.

“That’s the only thing I could remember from being a cheerleader there.”

After Windham and Lucas spoke, students then posed questions to the pair. Students asked Windham what it is like to write a long story and which book is her favorite.

“That’s hard because that’s like saying which one of my children I like best,” Windham said.

On Wednesday, students were also able to view the Alabama House of Representatives at work. The topic of discussion during the viewing period was charter schools.

“The kids got firsthand to see the representatives and see first hand whether they are for or against charter schools,” said Lesia James, facilitator.

Students in her class have learned to think outside the box because of the A.C.C.E.S.S. program.

“They never thought they’d be able to take a class without being at another school,” James said.

Several A.P. classes are taught to the students through the A.C.C.E.S.S. classroom.

“It’s a great learning experience,” said senior Ikeia Thrash. “It’s like being in a regular classroom, you still have work and time on your assignments,” Thrash said. “The only difference is your teacher is on a screen.”

Another difference is that assignments must be submitted electronically to the teacher, Thrash said.

A.CC.E.S.S. has served 10,000 half-credit enrollments for high school students in the state of Alabama during the 2009-2010 school year.

“Every public school in the state of Alabama has an A.C.C.E.S.S. lab,” said Anne Marie Freeman, Student Registration/Student Course Management/ Counselor Issues for A.C.C.E.S.S. “It’s leveled the playing field in the state of Alabama because we offer AP courses to school where they just couldn’t offer those courses.”

Alabama is one of the leading states to use technology such as A.C.C.E.S. in system-wide high schools, Freeman said.