Monday, March 10, 2014

How to Avoid Snow Days with Technology

By Sean Scarpiello

This winter in the Middle Atlantic region of the United States, there has been a lot of snowy weather leading to many snow days for students. To combat the loss of class time, many educational institutions are implementing technology in novel ways to ensure that students continue to receive a high quality education. I recently read an article that described how the Hun School, a private K-12 school Princeton, New Jersey had prepared for a potential snow day this past Monday, March 3. As news reports predicted poor weather, the school’s administration set up a meeting online to discuss the logistics behind offering Monday’s classes in an entirely online format for students. Therefore, students can still attend class without being hindered by the weather.

To prepare for the potential school closing, teachers used the learning management system, Schoology, where teachers post assignments, images, links to website, and even tests, while also allowing a clear link of the communication between teachers and students. Further, Schoology also enables teachers to automatically grade tests and assignments in a way that allows students to track revisions and get instant feedback. Classes also planned to meet up at specific times online using Google Hangout, a textual and video chat-room free to use with a Google email account. With these sorts of educational technologies, teachers can continue to provide valuable education in the event of a school closing or delay.

In addition to the technologies being implemented at the Hun School, many other schools are using common technology in innovative ways to make up for snow days this winter. One example I have seen personally has been how one of my past organic chemistry professors has turned to YouTube to make up for lost class time. For students to be successful in a difficult course such as organic chemistry, it is imperative that students attend lecture and get direct instruction on actually applying the material. But as school closings and delays significantly reduce class time, our professor posts lectures on YouTube for students to watch outside of class. He additionally makes himself available for students to come and meet him during his office hours to answer questions. Also, students can even ask questions in the comment section which can be further discussed in class or answered directly by the professor on the YouTube page. Many students concur that these video lectures are a great way to supplement lecture material in light of lost class time.

These two cases serve as shining examples of how simple and well-known technology can be used in an innovative manner to improve education when increased school closings and delays take away valuable class time. In fact, I have been in classes where professors use these technologies to further supplement education and can attest to the great success that the additional help and material provided through these technologies can achieve. Therefore, teachers and professors who can provide technology-based learning in the face of decreased class time are bringing a higher quality education to more students at lower or no costs.


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