Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Webcams allow students to stay connected

Webcams allow students to stay connected

(Place your mouse over hyperlinked headline above. Click to read the original story)

This is definitely a story that jerks at the heart and adds human interest. A first grader is a leukemia patient undergoing treatment, but the least of her worries is missing out on school. Thanks to a home laptop and school Webcam, she can still keep up with her schoolwork and stay connected to what's going on in classroom. This is a chipper, young optimist who, despite her deteriorating health, loves education and her class.

The first paragraph most resembles a blind lead. We think that Becky is a regular 7-year-old who plops in front of her computer, but we don't exactly know why she participates in class from home until we get to the 2nd paragraph or the nutgraf. The nutgraf fills the readers in the information that writer withheld until the readers were caught off guard. That's what makes a key eye grabbing story.

The sources that the reporter interviewed cover a variety of angles to make the story whole. For instance, Becky's pediatric oncology director provides the outlook on technology and how it affects children with cancer. We have her mother who is encouraging her daughter by allowing Becky to have these interactive home-based tutoring and learning sessions with the class. Then Becky's teacher describes the reactions of the classmates and how they greet Becky and interact with her via webcam. There are no immediate gaps in this article, and the sources speak on behalf of story and add color to the blocks of descriptive paragraphs.

The reporter did a great job of letting Becky's voice be heard. She is the mainpoint of the story. Everything else revolves around the issue of Becky--even the idea of webcams and participating in school while at home. Most of the quotes from Becky were cute and funny and gave off the impression that a little girl was speaking. The writer really didn't have to do much else to get the readers to envision the first grader's voice speaking through the article.

The writer could've improved on using less block-sized paragraphs and using more colorful quotes. However, there is no repetition between quotes and the transition, so the readers are presented with new information in each paragraph.

I'd say the writer does an excellent job of setting up the story. This was one that I couldn't really find anything more to critique than to say, 'Let's think of a more creative headline.'


  1. This article is really one of those touching stories. It reminds me a little bit of the example story from p244 in the Harrower book in that it tried to incorporate the voice of the child. The book story intentionally used words that a child might use even in sentences that weren't quotes, though, like when it says "the nice man with the beard." This article didn't incorporate that, but I don't think it was worse for it. There was still a newsy element in that it detailed the program providing webcams, so it didn't need that extra childlike element I think. I also thought the variety of sources made it really balanced.

  2. I agree that each source attributed something to the article. The piece was interesting and shows how technology has grown over the past few years. My only issue with the piece is the ending. Sure, it's great Becky is back at school, but is it important to know what she does at recess? I think not. The author was probably trying to bring the story to an end by relating it do the beginning. However, it didn't really work for me.

  3. Kara, I disagree. While I suppose it's a matter of taste, but I think the ending works because it demonstrates the even with the limitations of the technology, Becky will find ways to stay connected to her school. Good story.