11 Jan Virtual Learning Days Replace Snow Days in Chromebook Schools
Deploying Chromebooks in school districts creates new options for planning around snow days. States with e-learning legislation are giving students a chance to work remotely to overcome inclement weather.
Snow days are an inevitable (but unpredictable) part of living in wintry states. Kids wait excitedly for announcements that school is canceled, despite knowing that those missed days come back later to rob them of warm spring and summer afternoons. Now, legislation in Indiana and Illinois may offer a logical compromise that reduces cancellations without forcing bus drivers to brave icy, snow-covered roads.
The rise of one-to-one technology programs is making remote virtual learning a possibility for educators who want to maintain continuity when classes are canceled several days in a row. For over two years, the Indiana Dept. of Education has approved the Virtual Option for Inclement Weather, which requires individual districts to apply. To be eligible, districts have to demonstrate their ability to provide equal computer and Internet access to all students while away from campuses, a feat that is easier to accomplish in schools that already have take-home Chromebooks.
The IDOE also expects districts to facilitate remote communications between educators and families during virtual learning days, so teachers can provide instruction and respond to student inquiries. While one-to-one programs aren’t mandatory for VOIW approval, Chromebook schools have the benefit of experience. Many districts have already developed solutions to help families without Internet access, such as mobile hotspots, and teachers are familiar with remote communication and assignment management.
In total, 66 schools have been approved for virtual learning this year, including the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County. The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation, which provides Chromebooks to high school and middle school students, has exercised this option for three years. The district overcomes Internet access limitations by requiring teachers to upload work to Chromebooks in advance for students without home Internet when inclement weather is likely.
In June 2015, the Illinois State Board of Education also voted in favor of an e-learning option, which requires five hours of online coursework and a method of verification. The program is approved in three districts that currently have one-to-one programs: Leyden High School District 212, Gurnee School District 56 and Community High School District 94. Beyond the snow day solution, Nick Polyak, superintendent of Leyden, hopes these virtual sessions show students that learning can happen in diverse environments or even be self-guided.
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