Chronic absenteeism, teacher work days, holidays, sick days . . . these are all things that can hinder the momentum in your classroom to keep individuals on track with your lesson plans. They are also things you can prepare for and work around, whether that’s through substitute teachers or sending missed work home for students. But what if the reason for missed school is out of your control?
It’s not unusual for schools to plan for weather-related missed school days, but when it repeatedly happens and exceeds the districts expectations, educators worry that their students will fall off track. The work it takes to build momentum and get everyone motivated to move ahead after falling behind is exhausting for teachers.
One school decided to act quickly to keep their students on track for exams despite the record amount of snow days. To answer the problem, they developed a Digital Learning Day. Their plan was put in place before they needed it and so the transition was smooth. Teachers posted their instructions and virtual office hours for the day by 10 a.m. They used Schoology and were able to post learning activities that lasted about 30 minutes per class period for all classes.
What were the results? Overwhelming. Through the analytics from Schoology they found that students and faculty accessed their pages as frequently and for the same amount of time that they would during a normal school day. They also received positive and constructive student and parent feedback, with some students requesting that they have a regular Digital Learning Day before every exam period.
Due to its success, they went on to create Protocol B, which was designed to replace a regular school day. Through this Digital Learning Day activities were limited to the classes being missed that day, and the learning activities lasted between 45 to 60 minutes per class period with students being expected to submit work to show class participation.
Four basic requirements
For a Digital Learning Day to be possible, the school only required four things: a digital learning platform, access to devices, learning objectives, and a clearly communicated protocol developed by faculty and administration. Because the school is a one-to-one with one iPad per student it made the process a lot easier, but they claim that it is not required for a successful Digital Learning Day. They state, “As long as teachers and students have the ability to communicate through some kind of digital platform, a Digital Learning Day is possible. Even a smartphone can be a powerful tool.”
Here are some tips they shared:
- Set up a social media hashtag that students can use
- Take advantage of useful videos on YouTube
- Use Remind to communicate and share materials with students
- Use Pinterest, eduClipper, or Pocket to share links or resources with students
- If you have a teacher web page, use that to post instructions and share resources
- Use your email, as simple as that sounds
Beyond snow days
Apart from a great idea for weather-related missed days, having a Digital Learning Day or incorporating some aspects of what it entails is a great way to connect with your students through digital tools. Creating space for you and your students to explore digital tools and how they can work for your classroom is exciting. Not only will you learn more, but it enables your students to communicate with you and others in the class in a new way.
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