John L. Hensey students introduced to new technology

Brandon Schatsiek
Students stare and laugh at the projection of their favorite author Barbara Techel and her dog Frankie — here trying on different hats — on the PolyVision board during Kim Burd’s class at John L. Hensey School April 7. Burd’s class had a Skype date with Techel who wrote a story about her dog Frankie and her trials while dealing with every day life in a dog cart.

Students in Kim Burd’s class at John L. Hensey School were able to meet face-to-face with the author of one of their favorite books who lives in Wisconsin April 7; nevermind the fact that they met with more than 150 miles separating them.

Burd’s early childhood class recently finished reading “Frankie: The Walk ‘n Roll Dog” about a miniature dachshund who ruptured a disk in her back, becoming permanently paralyzed in that area. Frankie’s owner and author of the book, Barbara Techel found a dog cart for Frankie and decided to chronicle the every day life of a dog in said cart.

“It’s about a real animal with real challenges ... the message is about never giving up and you have to put your best paw forward,” Burd said. 

The class was able to meet with Techel and Frankie through the class’ new interactive board from PolyVision and a computer program called Skype. 

Burd said it was all thanks to a grant that allows schools to implement new technology in the classroom.

“I just got this technology in my room and for me to be able to learn that with the children ... they loved seeing everything very big on the wall,” Burd said of the projected Techel holding Frankie on the other end of the connection. “They wanted to go up and pet Frankie like she was actually there.” 

Frankie, a trained therapy dog, often accompanies Techel as they visit hospitals and schools to teach people about overcoming challenges. Although Techel couldn’t make it to Washington, Burd, who uses Techel’s website for teaching assistance with the book, thought it would be worth a shot to see if the two of them could set up a Skype date.

“Isn’t this great?” Techel said to the class, referring to the Internet meeting. “With Frankie being in a wheelchair ... and Frankie’s almost 12 years old, for me to travel with her it’s not necessarily a good thing because I don’t want to over-stress her ... I’m so glad we can meet kids like you via Skype.”

“She provides (lesson plans, etc.) for teachers to use her book as a learning tool ... she’s made it very fun to want to do this as a teacher with the kids and all of the positive things you can teach them (through Frankie’s story),” Burd said. “(Meeting with her via Skype) was just the icing on the cake.”

During the meeting, kids asked questions about where Frankie sleeps (in bed with Techel and her husband), if his cart works in the grass (it works rather well actually, Techel said) and they showed her pictures they colored of Frankie.

“That looks like Frankie; you got the colors right and everything,” Techel said upon seeing them on her computer screen. 

Techel then had a fashion show with Frankie putting on a couple of her favorite hats including a cowgirl hat, biker helmet and floppy summer hat.

“We’ve done all kinds of neat things, but to be able to visit with someone like that and make it a lesson, was very powerful to see that.”