Webcams Bring Ged Classes Countywide

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Web cameras for adult education soon to appear in rural libraries countywide are perhaps remarkable because the program is the first of its kind in Arizona.

However, the students who will use the cameras to earn their GEDs will likely care little for the technological barrier they will be breaking.

“They need hope,” said Fran Cain, the library manager at Tonto Basin Public Library. The library has the Internet, and patrons can earn the high school equivalency certificates online. However, Cain said the lack of support means those studying for the GED often stop short of actually achieving it.

“I’ve seen too many of them over the years and they still haven’t gotten it,” said Cain. “If they just have one little encouragement, that can make a world of difference for a person.”

The Web cameras and support materials will allow students to join in classes from more populated areas, said county Library Director Jacque Griffin when she presented the plan to county supervisors last month.

Through the Adult Education Library Collaborative, the rural outreach program will provide books, software and Web cameras to adults seeking their GEDs or to generally further their education. The program is expected to begin within the month, after software installation.

The nearly $21,500 Library Services and Technology Act grant will mostly support the county library district’s adult education services. The remaining $9,000 will go to the Gila County Adult Education Program, which runs out of the county school superintendent’s office.

“GED is the majority of what we do,” said Leslie Owen, the county’s adult education director. However, other adults want to improve writing skills to get a promotion, reading skills to read to their children, or math skills to help their kids with homework.

“We try to remove barriers for people in the more rural communities,” Owen said, “so they don’t necessarily have to drive to Globe or Payson to attend a class.”

The library system is not immune to budget cuts. Although Gila County increased its library funding by $129,000 this year, to $1.2 million, cuts at the state level could force state library services to close next year, according to information from State Librarian GladysAnn Wells.

The money for this program was budgeted during fiscal year 2008, which Owen said was one of the reasons the funding came through.

“One of the things we were trying to come up with (was) an innovative way with trying to reach the rural parts of the county,” Owen said. “Nobody else is using Web cams for adult education in Arizona.”

The program will service Pine and Strawberry, Tonto Basin, Young, Hayden and Winkleman and Miami.

The number of those who earned GEDs last year was unavailable by press time, but Owen predicted an increase of 30 or 40 students countywide.

“If we got a few in each community, we’d be happy,” she said.

Cain said she couldn’t estimate the number of people who might take advantage of the technology in Tonto Basin.

“It’s going to be very important and quite an asset for this community,” she said. “I’m just tickled to death to have it soon.”

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