by Dian Schaffhauser
Rose Tree Media School District in Pennsylvania will be continuing its Virtual Kindergarten program this year at one of its elementary schools after piloting it during 2007-2008. The program uses Wimba Classroom, a suite of virtual classroom services that include audio, video, application sharing, and content display; and Wimba Voice, which allows the teacher to embed audio, including voice, into a Web page.
The idea of the Virtual Kindergarten is to support and enrich the half-day in-person program and increase parent involvement in their child's education. Goals for the kids include teaching students about online safety and digital citizenship and to build on the technology skills the students already possess when they arrive at school.
Managed by one teacher with experience in distance learning and video production, parents have to opt in to obtain a parent email account. Registration also puts them on the list to receive "Virtual K" announcements with details about weekly extra-curricular activities. The only technical requirement for parents is having a computer with fast Internet access to accommodate video and podcasting.
The virtual school includes interactive lessons to augment literacy, numeracy, technology, and science standards, as well as individual lessons that cater to a specific child's needs. Lessons during the 2007-2008 school year included a dinosaur counting game, story reading, and number counting practice. The site provides links to other online resources for the activities that students and their parents participate in.