Injured social studies teacher uses technology to connect with students

Injured teacher keeps in touch with students via internet video chat.

Tyrone students will use their school issued Chrombooks to connect with the curriculum for the foreseeable future.

A serious injury forced Tyrone Area High School social studies teacher Cummins McNitt out of the classroom until early November.  But that hasn’t stopped him from staying in touch with his students.

During his absence McNitt is using technology to bring his students to him.  Each week he meets with his classes via Skype, an internet video link that allows him to keep up with how his students are doing in class.

“This summer I fell from a ladder while l working on the exterior of my home,” said McNitt, “I only fell about 7 feet, but I landed on concrete. I broke my right ankle and tore the ligament. I completely destroyed my left knee and split my tibia. I had to have bone grafts and a lot of reconstruction.”

McNitt was concerned that being out of his classroom for two months would make the transition difficult for him and his students when he returned.

He first got the idea to use Skype from a prior experience with his son.  “Two summers ago our son Dudley spent [the summer] in London doing an internship. We used Skyping to communicate with him,” said McNitt.

Skyping allows McNitt to know his students and ensure that they are staying on track.  McNitt says he believes that Skyping has changed the classroom’s environment for the better.

Ms. Bridget Ciolkosz, McNitt’s substitute teacher, has also found the weekly Skype meetings to be beneficial.   “It is an interesting way to communicate. It’s beneficial to his classes, more so the core classes than advisory, but overall the classes have a connected feeling with him now,” said Ciolkosz,  “Most of the students look forward to Skyping each week; some even come up to me and ask when we’ll be Skyping with him again.”

“Ms. Ciolkosz and I are team teaching once a week through Skyping,” said McNitt, “I think this approach has broadened our students’ classroom experience. They get the experiences and observations of two vs. one. It’s a win-win in my mind.”

Justin Bickle, a 9th grade student in McNitt’s first period, said “[Skyping with McNitt] almost makes up for the fact he’s not physically in the classroom. We only get to see him once a week, not every day.”

“It’s a fun time, and he seems like a helpful, nice guy,” says Bickel.

McNitt hopes to return to school by November. “While I am thrilled to have the opportunity to Skype I’d give it up in a heartbeat to be back in the classroom,” said McNitt.