In New Jersey, Virtual Learning Fills Snow Days.


Snow days used to be considered a break from school. Kids could go outside, toss a few snowballs, and sled with their friends. However, for students across the country snow days are becoming just another day of schoolwork.

Classrooms are more electronically connected than ever before, and schools across the country are exploring the possibility of using a virtual classroom as a way to continue learning despite bad weather.

Ann Flynn, the director of education technology at the National School Boards Association, says that around one third of school districts in the US have “significant one to one initiatives” which means that students are given laptops so teachers can assign work when they are not in school. She says this helps during times “of health crises or in weather emergencies”.

In New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy forced schools to close for several days, and Superintendent of Pascack Valley Regional High School District P. Erik Gundersen says that with winter snowstorms near they are setting plans in motion “for making a true virtual school day”.

To set the plan in motion, Gundersen needed to notify teachers and contact the state’s education department to treat a snow day as a traditional school day. Students in his district have already used their three snow days for the year meaning any additional days missed must be made up.

State officials said they would take a look, gathering evidence that the experiment worked and involved student-teacher engagement throughout the day, and that it was not just a glorified homework assignment.

Spokesman for the Education Department Michael Yaple responded by saying, “This is an idea that we’d be interested in exploring in the future”.

Al Baker with the New York Times reported that this works for this school district because each of the students and their teachers have laptops, and very few students have no access to Wi-Fi internet at home.

“Teachers developed very thoughtful plans,” Mr. Gunderson said. “Even if the state does not approve this, it was great to keep educating students despite a snowstorm.”

Tina E. Marchiano teaches English at Pascack Valley High School, and said she was happy with the work her students did on their “snow day”. “I think some students got more out of it than being in a traditional classroom setting,” she said.



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