Published Online: March 5, 2003
Published in Print: March 5, 2003, as Take Note

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Staying Connected

Even with more than 2 feet of snow blanketing the Washington region and local television broadcasters reporting that all schools were closed, Lianna Cramer managed to make it to class on time.

The 10-year-old simply rubbed her eyes, rolled out of bed in her blue pajamas, and logged on to her family's computer. Sure, she could have been putting the finishing touches on her new igloo, but for Lianna, learning about dividing decimals was almost as fun.

Thanks to her technology-addicted 4th grade teacher, Aron Sterling, Lianna and several of her classmates from Canterbury Woods Elementary School in the Washington suburb of Annandale, Va., the snowstorm wasn't a complete learning shutout.

"It was neat to use the computer to learn," Lianna said last week.

Mr. Sterling, who admitted that he'd been eager to hold class using the computer in the past, said the February snowstorm motivated him to take the plunge.

Using the Fairfax County school district's Web site, Mr. Sterling sent an e-mail to his students' parents every night announcing what time class would start the following day. The last class he held began at 8 a.m. —an hour before classes normally begin at the school of about 600 students.

The 166,000-student district uses Blackboard Inc., a Washington-based education technology company, for online learning, posting homework, and teachers' Web pages.

Of the 23 pupils in his class, Mr. Sterling had as many as 10 log on for class one day, while only one student ditched sledding for schooling another day. The online lessons about fractions and, of course, the weather, usually lasted about two hours. Mr. Sterling even sent the children out for recess.

"I had to tell them that it was OK to go out and play," he said, laughing. "They wanted more and more."

Matt Powell said that he was getting a little bored at home as one snow day turned into a whole week out of school. After playing with his cat, Stitch, watching cartoons on TV, and getting into snowball fights with his friends, there wasn't much left to do.

"It was cool talking to my friends and my teacher [online]," the 10-year-old said.

Now that traditional classes have resumed, one thing is for sure: Students can't wear pajamas to Mr. Sterling's class anymore.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Vol. 22, Issue 25, Page 3

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