Being in the hospital didn’t get Austin Husbands out of his school work yesterday.

The Grade 4 student at Sycamore Lane elementary school in Lower Sackville demonstrated the virtual classroom at the IWK Health Centre.

He impressed Premier Rodney MacDonald, a couple of government ministers, as well as the media and others as he chatted with his teacher via a web camera.


“I get to see all my friends and to see my teacher, and see how hard they’re working,” said Husbands.

At the launch yesterday, the IWK became the first hospital in the country to offer a virtual classroom and the third to adopt the Child Life Interactive Computers for Kids (CLICK) program.

CLICK provides laptops and X-boxes for hospitalized kids to use at their bedside, and was previously introduced in children’s hospitals in Ottawa and Quebec City.

But the IWK is the first to offer their patients a virtual classroom as well, using a roundtable camera system that zeroes in on whoever is speaking at the time.

“We’ve had a few laptops over the years and we’ve been able to connect children, and it helps with their isolation,” said Krista Naugler, a child life specialist, who will help patients connect with technology.

“It will be nice to have the classroom for kids who are here an extended period of time and for kids who have a chronic illness and are in and out of the hospital. They’ll be able to be connected and they won’t have so much disruption.”

It’s a corporate-sponsored program, with Microsoft Canada pitching in more than $400,000 and Aliant providing $200,000 worth of wireless technology and services.

“This will also enable (patients) to do things like research their treatment and illness,” said Phil Sorgen, president of Microsoft Canada.

“And we should never discount the importance of allowing them to just have some fun, to play some games.”