Is it Time for Technology Use to Step Up and Deliver?

Man, it’s cold outside these days.  Today, just another Monday, was interesting reading on Twitter.  School Districts closed; individual schools closed, schools open, buses not running, … I think we hit every permutation in the province.

The problem with owning a dog who is part Husky is that there is no weather that generates an excuse for missing a morning dog walk.  We see elementary and secondary students waiting for the bus during our stroll.  The younger the student, the closer to the Michelin Man, they look.  The older students forfeit comfort for fashion.  No matter what; it’s still plain cold.  On the brutally cold days, do they really need to stand there waiting for the bus?

It brought back a faint memory of a conversation from my Superintendent from years ago when we were debating bringing Online Learning to our District.  That memory became very strong when I read this article. “Illinois School Drops Snow Days for E-Learning Days“.

Then it came back to me…one of the things in the PMI Chart that we had (on the P side) was having Online Learning available during snow days.  That way, students could still learn even though they weren’t physically in school.  I shared the article above online and Joe Sisco got back to me quickly.

I think that he nailed it.

You can’t pull something out of your hat just become today happens to be very cold or blizzardy.  Learning Online has to be part of the regular routine or it’s just not going to work.  It can’t be a one time, or a special activity for a particular reason.  It has to be part of the way that you do business.  That’s where the notion of a Blended Learning classroom pays off.

In Ontario, we are so fortunate to have eLearning Ontario and all the resources and content there waiting to be used.  But, even if you don’t go that route, a well crafted classroom wiki will serve as your own personal LMS.  My university classes are all taught using a wiki.  It’s private; but the students know that everything that we do is done electronically and stored there for them.  It works well should someone miss a class and I used to make them aware of articles or blogs that needed to be read for the next class.  Even after the course is over, the wiki stays functional for them.  It’s heart-warming to see students logging in after the course to dig out a handout or a technique that they remember from my class for use in their current class.

The benefits go far beyond the in vogue badge of honour “My class is paperless.”  It’s a significant change in the way things are done and are just as easily available during snow days.  Do students (and teachers) really need to brave the elements on the very worse of days?  Not if your class is online.

“But my kids don’t have internet access at home!”

Really?  Check the report from Young Canadians in a Wired World.

Please include attribution to http://mediasmarts.ca/ycww.

I’ll bet that there’s more than 1% sick on any given day!

“But online learning isn’t as good as face to face learning.”

That’s a nasty message that gets spread by people that don’t understand online learning at all.  In fact, Ontario offers full credits online with the same credit value as it does face to face.  Teachers of online courses learn how to engage students, make group work work, incorporate simulations and gaming, and all of the other things that you would see in a regular face to face classroom.  That whole discussion is worthy of thoughts on its own – here we’re just talking about a day or two.  In a blended learning classroom, it really is just an extension of the regular routine.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to find excuses any more.  In a fully functional blended learning environment, snow days could become just another day where the learning takes place in pyjamas.

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8 thoughts on “Is it Time for Technology Use to Step Up and Deliver?”

  1. We don’t have traditional snow days at my school. If there is no school then students go online for assignments and work on them at home. Assuming enough of them do the assignment, which must have an assessment piece, then we get to count the day as a school day to meet state requirements. It works well for us. Although some students say that they have to work harder on “snow days” than regular school days. :-)

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  2. First-hand experience has shown that sometimes students say what they think the teacher, researcher wants to hear. Some questions on a getting-to-know-you survey I used to invite students to fill in, revealed that contrary to the results not 30, but only two students had internet access in hand or at home. (The discrepancy was revealed when homework activities that required internet access were given.) The wide gap was evident on many occasions. However, perhaps the current situation is so dramatically different that internet access is now really available in 99% of the homes.

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  3. Interesting and I understand the scenario, Noeline. I had a person I worked with once who started our brainstorming sessions with “If you were King of the World, …”

    I think that there are times that you have to push and push hard. If technology is ever going to fulfill its promise, then it needs to be used in significant ways. It seems to me that this is one of those significant ways.

    I also understand the financial end. However, we’re seeing more and more things go online. ServiceOntario, virtually any government service, and now communities are talking about electronic elections. In order for these initiatives to succeed, access needs to be universal.

    I am in favour of tax credits for things like computers and internet access for student use at home. To me, that would be the ultimate show of support for a government wanting all students to be ready, willing, and able to succeed in the 21st Century.

    Obviously, the concept of online learning during snow days only succeeds when every student can participate. Right now, I don’t think that we’ve even tried in a significant major way ala what Alfred describes as happening at his school.

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  4. I’ve been digging into the young Canadians survey with my Core French classes (they find a stat they think is interesting, and we talk about it, in French). We’ve also been comparing our numbers with the ones in the infographic (and doing the math in French) In most of my classes, our percentages are lots lower than those in the stats-in terms of phone ownership, Facebook/Twitter usage in lower grades, and Internet access. Most of my low economic end kids either don’t have access, or there is access in the house, but they are not allowed access to it (particularly if it “belongs” to their parent’s partner). I keep thinking those numbers will go up, but it’s been an up and down cycle in all of my classes over my 7 years at this school. This year, in one of my 7/8 classes, we have e-mail addresses for every parent. It’s wonderful, and a complete rarity. Still doesn’t mean all those kids have access.

    In my school, one teacher consistently uses Edmodo – he is training his kids to be comfortable with it. They could easily make an e-learning day work (except that at least a third of his class has no access).

    Lots and lots to think about. It’s a have/have not world where I teach, and what I take for granted, many of my students can’t.

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