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Spelling bee airs on Web
Mount Vernon Elementary parents able to see students contest on phones
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A Hall County elementary school recently gave parents the option to watch their child’s spelling bee via cell phone.

Mount Vernon Elementary School held its annual spelling bee last week, a high-interest event for relatives.

“Some parents wanted to see it but couldn’t get away from work,” Mount Vernon Principal Connie Daniels said.

The dilemma gave the school’s media specialist Kristi Crumpton an idea. She learned about a program called UStream, which allows users to broadcast video live from a computer, at a technology conference in Atlanta.

“I used it personally with my family and thought, ‘It’s too good not to use educationally,’” she said.

Rather than spell before of a live audience, the students competed in front of a small webcam. Parents who attended the event watched from a separate room.

Daniels said the students enjoyed competing without a live crowd.

“Kids said in the past, when they had an audience they were nervous,” Daniels said. “This took the pressure off.”

Motorola Droid users could also view the spell-off on their cell phones, Crumpton said.

Families watched as fourth-grader Megan Stephans emerged as the winner of the spelling bee by correctly spelling the word “intermittent.” Fifth-grader Courtney Kelley was the runner-up.

The winners will move on to a regional spelling bee this Friday at The Oaks at Lanier Charter Career Academy.
Crumpton said this probably won’t be the last time the school uses live broadcasting.

To access UStream, people log on to a Web address, and only relatives have the password.

“You have to make sure it’s privacy protected. That was our No. 1 thing to make sure it was safe for our kids,” Crumpton said.

She’s considering using the technology for student presentations, which parents could watch from home or work. But she adds there are a number of possibilities.

“Just imagine if you were on a field trip and you could film what you’re seeing and feed it back to your parents or to other students who are at home or sick. It’s a cool idea,” Crumpton said.

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