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Collection: Telecommunications

Purple arrow 1137 bytes)Prodigy is "Key to Treasure Chest" for Shannon Lilly

NCIP Staff, 1995

Shannon Lilly, the student profiled in the following story, passed away in 1994.

black and white photo of Shannon in wheelchairUsing the computer network Prodigy, seventh-grader Shannon Lilly launched a small business that allowed her friends and family access to the network's many resources.


For Shannon Lilly, discovering the on-line network Prodigy, was "like fnding a key to a treasure chest," according to her mother, Jeanne Lilly.

"She found sources of creativity and challenge, sources of information, recreation, and socialization, sources which boosted her self-image, and a sense of independence and control," said Jeanne Lilly of her daughter, a seventh grader with limited mobility due to muscular dystrophy.

Ever since the first grade, Shannon had been mainstreamed in the Brockton, Massachusetts Public Schools. As her motor functions became increasingly impaired, Helen Virga, the Brockton assistive technology specialist looked for technologies that would allow Shannon to communicate more easily and to continue to participate in her class assignments.

Shannon was not able to use a standard keyboard because of her limited mobility, so Helen ordered a Macintosh Powerbook to mount to Shannon's power wheelchair. Using a trackball and KE:NX (adaptive software with an on-screen keyboard display), Shannon was able to have access to a wide range of computer applications. While the adaptive hardware and software provided access, it was the computer network Prodigy which opened up a range of new possibilities for Shannon.

In the four-month winter flu season, Shannon was tutored at home because of her tenuous health. During this time, it was often diffcult to fill up the hours of the day with activities that were engaging, stimulating, and interactive, and even more importantly, tasks that Shannon could do without assistance. Once Shannon discovered Prodigy, this problem was solved! Suddenly there weren't enough hours in the day for Shannon, and her mother often had to force her to log off and go to bed.

Shannon used Prodigy in a variety of ways. She read the news screen on a daily basis, taking particular enjoyment in being the frst in the family to know and share the news of the day. Shannon also participated in a number of Prodigy bulletin boards.

The Babysitters Club was one of her favorites -- she was a club member, read stories on-line, and participated in the discussions about the characters and events in the stories. Prodigy also provided her with a link to her school. She sent e-mail messages and personalized cards to friends, the computer teacher at her school, and Helen Virga.

Using her computer expertise and the wealth of resources offered through Prodigy, Shannon launched "Shannon's Stuff," a small business that offered her friends and relatives a variety of services. She downloaded soap opera summaries for those diehards who had missed a few weeks. After using Prodigy to access encyclopedia and magazine articles for her own school project on whales, Shannon was able to locate and download information for her brother's research project on William Penn. And for the sports enthusiasts among her clients, Shannon downloaded and compiled sports statistics -- which kept her especially busy during the NBA playoff season.

Like any smart entrepreneur, Shannon developed a price list and a production schedule. She also advertised her services in "Shannon's Stuff Newsletter," a publication she wrote, designed, and distributed. "She took pride in the fact that she was able to do something for others," said Jeanne Lilly.

black and white photo of Shannon's newletter called "Shannon's stuff" (8233 bytes)Shannon Lilly advertised her business "Shannon's Stuff" in a newsletter that she wrote and designed on her computer.

The Prodigy network not oly offered Shannon an outlet for independence and creativity -- it also provided her with an opportunity not to be viewed primarily as a girl with a physical disability. "No one on the other end was aware of anything except of what she provided. She was able to express herself freely, and show her potential without any misunderstandings or uneasiness," said Jeanne Lilly.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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