Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What Snow Day? Staying Connected No Matter The Weather




Just a few of the terms I have heard on my local/national media and have seen on Twitter to describe the recent Winter Weather here in the souther United States. From Texas across the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard, many students have not been in school since Jan 7. (Some before then.) Today is the second day in a row all of the districts in my area are out. And it isn't looking good for tomorrow either. Some places in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi might not make it back all week.

Now I am all for snow days. (Even thought I work 12 months and I still have to go in) I enjoy a good day of snow every now and then. As a classroom teacher, I hated them. I knew for each day out, I was one day behind and would take twice as long to catch up.

But now that doesn't have to be the case.

Many individual teachers and even some schools and districts don't let the learning stop on a bad weather day. They have come up with some creative ways to keep kids (and teachers) engaged even when the weather won't let them come to school.

But how do you do it? What do you use? It's easy!

Google Docs-Because of the real-time collaboration features in Google Docs you could set up with your students ahead of time a time that can meet on the doc to work out some practice math problems, respond to some simple science at home labs. You would have to have everything ready to go before the weather hits but as long as the kids know what to do, you can continue lessons and learning.

Facebook: Yep. Facebook. I know. I know. There seems to be a movement to ban Teacher/Student communication outside of school and school maintained platforms. (I get this. I do. There are bad people out there and it is to protect both parties, but seriously?) Let's face it. Most kids are in the space and many teachers are as well. On Twitter yesterday I saw unfold a teacher who planned to meet with their students for an hour or so via Facebook chat. In this case it isn't about the platform. It is about using what is already available.

Edmodo: As an alternative to Facebook, many teachers are turning to Edmodo, a Facebook-like platform that is a private classroom space where kids can chat, share files, videos, and more. I love Edmodo. My sister (who is in 6th grade and has been out of school for snow since last Wednesday) hasn't missed a beat because her teachers use Edmodo for out of class assignments. They sent a message of assignments to complete each day. And the teacher is available for several hours each day to answer questions. Weather or no weather they still have class. And the best part? Edmodo is free and so easy to use. Oh, and they just got parent accounts, too.

Ustream: If you are feeling brave, you could still hold class face-to-face. Ustream is free and all you need is a webcam and a mic and you can teach to your hearts content. Students can log in and post comments and questions. Or, better yet. You could get kids to do some of the video teaching. Adam Taylor is using Ustream today to conduct some PD for the teachers and administrators in his district. Cool idea. And so easy to set up and do.

CoverItLive: This is a simple, embedable chat application that could be put on virtually any website. Again, you could stream a lesson, show a video and use CoverItLive as a backchannel. Or you could just use it as a chat box to answer questions, post lessons or whatever. Easy to use and also free.

So a snow day or bad weather day doesn't mean that learning has to stop. Here are just a few ways. What are you doing or thinking? Got any other ways to stay connected even when Mother Nature drives us apart? Leave some comments below.

Stay warm!

Flick CC Image From Legofernis
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