Snow or Not, Schools are Asking Students to Work from Home

Contributed By

Dylan Rodgers

Content Strategy Manager and Editor in Chief of the Schoology Exchange

Snow or Not, Schools are Asking Students to Work from Home

Posted in Evolving Ed | March 07, 2016

In the past couple years, educators have changed the age old concept of a “snow day,” using LMSs, such as Schoology, to keep students engaged and learning while at home. During these “work from home” days, a few educators noticed that this exercise had a lot more benefit than just avoiding the dreaded extra days tacked on at the end of the year.

They decided to explore what happens when you have a “virtual day,” on purpose.

One of those schools is Park Ridge High School in Park Ridge, New Jersey who hosted its first work from home day, offering students the opportunity to connect to their classes and educators digitally on February 8th.

We caught up with Principal Troy Lederman to talk about how the digital day went, and how other districts can employ Schoology to try this themselves.

Why did you decide to hold a virtual day?

At Park Ridge, we’re working to help our students not only leave us with incredible academic acumen, but real, life skills. Over the past five to ten years, one of the biggest changes to how people work and learn is the addition of remote environments. With Schoology, we saw the opportunity to allow our students to practice some of the “soft” skills that are necessary to thrive in these flexible work and college environments. With the virtual day students walked away with a better understanding of self motivation and digital stewardship, without missing any of their regular classes.

Can you explain how it worked?

Schoology already houses so much of our content that turning it into a virtual learning platform for the day was actually quite simple. We worked with our teachers to develop lesson plans that students could do without being in a physical classroom. For our purposes, we kept the classes on a bell schedule, meaning that if a student had math second period, they would work on the day’s math assignment/lesson during the regular second period time. Once the student was done with math, they would then virtually move onto their third period class by logging into it via the Schoology platform. Through Schoology, teachers had an array of different tools to deliver the lesson—many had live discussions, other showed videos, and some had more self-paced reading or worksheets.

What about students that don't have internet access or a supervisor at home?

We certainly understand that not every student is able to “work from home.” So, to ensure every student had equal access to the day’s lessons and the ability to learn, we kept the school open and available to all students. While most students worked from home, we did have about 10 percent who took advantage of the school building being open.

What were the biggest challenges?

As with trying anything for the first time, we definitely came away with lessons learned. But, the biggest challenge was that we never tested our bandwidth capacity. We’ve never had a reason to even think we didn’t have enough bandwidth. But, when you’re asking more than 500 students to log on at the same time, it becomes quite obvious how important it is. While we did overload for a few minutes, we fixed it quickly allowing all students to move through the day seamlessly.

Would you do this again?

Absolutely. There is no doubt that our students and educators enjoyed the day, and most importantly walked away with new skills.

Is there anything you’d do differently?

There are one or two things we’d definitely do differently. We set up the day on the bell schedule to help allow for more live discussions. But we think there is room to allow for more flexibility and more autonomy for students to truly understand how to self-pace and stay accountable for their work. We’d like remove the bell schedule and have teachers release all of their content at the same time. For those students that wanted a live discussion, they would work with their students on an agreed upon time to meet. This helps mimic the “real world” much more effectively.

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It’s exciting to see how digital learning extends beyond the classroom, and serves as a tool for both students and teachers to stay engaged in learning when they otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so.

 Have you had experience with virtual learning days?

Read NPR's interview with Tina Bocolas and Troy Lederman

 

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