Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Snow Days & Distance Learning



That’s become a dirty word in a lot of school systems.

Granted, we all love a random day off, but after too many, you suddenly realize that the school year will continue well into that period of time when students (and staff) shift into “summer vacation brain”, making instruction not so effective.

Many districts have tried Blizzard Bags (with and without success) to keep student learning from being interrupted on snow days. There are many reasons why such an endeavor may or may not work, from student resources and support at home to the structure and quality of the activities created.

My district has investigated the possibility of making up some of our snow days this school year with “Distance Learning Days”. Essentially, students would make up a specific snow day by completing a certain number of assignments (based on a developmentally appropriate number of minutes) that correspond with the missed day. Since we are looking at this from the perspective of making up days and want to make this endeavor family-friendly, students would be given a two week window to complete that Distance Learning Day’s assignments at home on their own schedule.

I was very excited to talk with a colleague this morning who had started thinking about this proposal. She had started a folder in Google with a Doc dedicated to each Distance Learning Day. She has given permission for you to peek at what she’s drafting here! (Thank you, Ms. Anderson!)

What you will notice is that she is developing a workflow for herself and colleagues to collaborate on building these Distance Learning Days as well as for students to complete assignments that address specific learning objectives in an efficient, clear manner using digital tools and services.

For example, this folder can be shared with all the members of her teaching team, including specialists. Let’s say that her students missed music class or strings class, that specialist will be able to type in an assignment on the chart she created for that day. That way when she links this Google Doc in her Google Classroom, students will have the expected work all in one place for easy access. Furthermore, many of her grade level team is teaching the same content at the same time as she is. Therefore, they will be able to work together on the creation of high quality assignments in this space and then make a copy of the Doc to tailor to that specific classroom’s schedule for the snow day that is being made up.

Ms. Anderson and I also talked about how familiar subscription services such as DreamBox, BrainPOP and Typing Club may be utilized by students at home with directed assignments. For example, the teacher may make a short term assigned focus in DreamBox that addresses that snow day’s math learning standard/lesson. The teacher can access the results of the work right in the dashboard of the program, proving that the work was completed and what next instructional steps the teacher can take with that student. In BrainPOP, students can be instructed to watch a movie in a content area like science or social studies and take the built-in quiz. The student can fill out a Google Form that reflects on the learning as well. The Form can be “generic” so that it may be used for lots of topics at BrainPOP and other future Distance Learning Days. The Form’s results will be submitted to the teacher and archived via a Google Sheet, demonstrating learning and holding students accountable for the work. (Of course, a teacher even could sign up for My BrainPOP for more great services and feedback opportunities!) In Typing Club, a teacher can make specific assignments as well or just indicate a set number of minutes for keyboarding practice. The service logs all of the work that students complete in order to check expectations and see progress right on the teacher dashboard.

And there are so many more Google apps and non-Google services that could be harnessed in the creation of authentic activities that meet student learning objectives. Plus, the opportunity to “flip classrooms” with teacher instructional videos… and differentiating and personalizing the assignments so that all students can get what they need and feel successful

I think we really could take control of these Distance Learning Days and craft them into wonderful opportunities for advancing student learning and teaching practices.

(Disclaimer: We all understand that if there is no power or access at a student’s home or even the local library that these outlined digital activities would not be able to take place. For synchronous Distance Learning Snow Days, alternate plans and materials would need to be ready for students or more time allotted for the completion. Making up days with the two week grace period gives us a lot more wiggle room for digital devices and services to be available and operational.)

8 Comments to

“Snow Days & Distance Learning”

  1. March 27th, 2018 at 8:43 am       Jen Tietze Says:

    This would be such an easy way for specialists to share their lessons with students. Rather than getting multiple emails or papers from all teachers that would see a student that day, students would get one form from the classroom teacher and can work there way down until all assignments from all classes are completed.

    I love how easy Google Docs has made it to share info.

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa and Laura!

  2. March 27th, 2018 at 9:04 am       Julie Baudreau Says:

    This is an excellent blog post Lisa with lots of detailed examples for teachers. Nice work!

  3. March 27th, 2018 at 9:06 am       lsanderson Says:

    Absolutely, Jen! Let’s streamline this process for everyone!

  4. March 27th, 2018 at 9:08 am       lsanderson Says:

    Thanks, Julie. I look forward to helping teachers make this happen.

  5. March 27th, 2018 at 9:27 am       Elaine Santelmann Says:

    Thanks for your very specific ideas for making Distance Learning work! It really helps all of us visualize how we could implement this innovative idea. Just a note to all Westford K-5 teachers… if we go forward with this initiative, please let me know where you are in your science and social studies units. I’d be happy to offer ideas for your Distance Learning plans.

  6. March 27th, 2018 at 9:29 am       lsanderson Says:

    Thanks, Elaine. This is a team effort!

  7. April 11th, 2018 at 10:22 pm       juliette Says:

    These examples are really useful. Thank you so much, Lisa and Laura, great collaborative effort. So impressive.

  8. April 12th, 2018 at 9:12 am       lsanderson Says:

    You’re welcome! Let me know if you need any help.

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