I am one frustrated mother.
No, seriously, I’m a mom who is frustrated. This winter has been brutal in our locale, and so far, my son has had at least seven snow days off from school – if not more. I lost count, to be honest. My son has also commented many times that this stop-start approach to education has wreaked havoc on his and his friends’ abilities to retain what they have learned. When they go back to school, they feel like they are starting all over again. Unfortunately, teachers have limited time to actually re-teach what has been forgotten. I really wonder how much the kids have actually learned this winter.
The superintendent has had to call with updates to the calendar twice now. He has had to take away spring recess from the students to make up the time they have missed because of the white stuff. For more synonyms for the word ‘snow,’ look below or read this blog post: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/varia/snow.html. The words are a mix of real and fake and the ‘definitions’ are funny in some cases.
I say I have had enough. It is time for a change to the current system, time to use the technology we have to ensure that kids are getting the education they deserve, and that teachers are feeling they are the most effective they can be. This can’t be easy on any of the stakeholders involved in education. Why not do something to make it easier?
There is a solution. It’s time to eradicate the snow day. You read that right. I’m not saying to make the kids tromp through the snow to school, uphill both ways, without boots. (I hope you got the reference there to what folks say when the younger generation seems to have it easier than they do. “When I was a kid, I used to have to…!”) I’m saying that we need to make it a “work from home” day.
How could that be done?
Use a Learning Management System
There are plenty of good learning management systems out there. Some are free, like Moodle; others require a subscription. This would require some planning, of course, but it is possible to replicate the lessons taught in the classroom in courses in the learning management system. Some teachers might find it easier, even, to plan and structure their courses consistently using an LMS. They would be able to remind students that all the material they need, for example, is on the LMS. If they are out of school for some reason, they do not have to wait to return to school to get their assignments. If they go on vacation during the school year (for example, those students whose parents planned a spring getaway this year with non-refundable tickets), then they can access the LMS to retrieve and submit assignments or take assessments. Even if the teachers used the LMS only for snow day resources, it would serve its purpose well.
The snow days we’ve had were predicted well in advance, except for one or two. When teachers are alerted to upcoming weather problems, they can easily upload materials to the learning management system and tell their students that they are there. Additionally, many of these systems have plugins available for web conferencing sessions. If the district invests in WebEx or Adobe Connect, for example, plugins are available to allow teachers to set up sessions and to allow students to join them. Another alternative is to set up a Google Hangout session and announce it through a link or a message in the LMS course.
For those who do not have Internet access but do have a telephone, teachers should have copies of the material they will need and should give them a conference call number to access at a certain time (such as when they would normally have class with that teacher). They can review what has been done so far, get answers to their questions, etc. Districts can obtain conference calling services from a huge number of providers.
Plan in Advance, Reap the Rewards
The reward for all the snow-day planning and preparation? A school calendar that remains on track, students who remain on track with their learning, and teachers who feel they are doing the best they can to reach their students. The time saved by not traveling into school that day can be spent doing this:
Update: PA is going to pilot a Flex Day system. Yes!