Digital Days to replace snow days at schools? Mixed blessing

I have to admit that as I listened to this story on MPR in the car yesterday, my favorite 14 year old exclaimed that – nobody wants that! I pointed out that everyone loves the first snow day but we’re up to 7-8 days of snow and cold days at our house. Come summer, people, including students and teachers, are going to be ruing the day they didn’t go digital.

Minnesota Public Radio reports on schools that are shifting snow days to digital days…

Robbinsdale is among a growing number of Minnesota school districts embracing e-learning on days when the weather makes it too dangerous for students to get to school. It’s easier than ever thanks to improving technology — and a change in state law.

In a season where snow and cold weather have forced Minnesota schools to cancel as many as nine school days this year, the digital-days allowance has let Robbinsdale stick pretty closely to its original schedule and avoid extending classes into spring break, holidays or staff training time.

Jenkins said Robbinsdale began moving toward e-learning days a few years ago after hearing of a successful model built by the Farmington public schools.

In Robbinsdale, e-learning has some fans. Robbinsdale Middle School eighth-grader Tommy Resja said he’s had a pretty good experience with lessons at home when the weather’s bad.

And recognizes that there are places that this won’t work…

School officials, though, know it doesn’t work for everyone. The model assumes students have access to the internet at home, which is not a given even in a digital age. It can also be a challenge for teachers to write lesson plans for kids who may need more hands-on attention.

“It does take a lot of time to plan good e-learning modules, particularly for younger learners who may still be learning to navigate the technology, who are developing readers,” said Melissa Davey, who teaches French and English as a second language at Robbinsdale Middle School and had to prep a digital lesson at home recently while caring for her toddler.

“We’re looking at what can students do independently on their own or in a limited English proficiency household,” she said. “That is a very significant challenge.”

Little Falls Community Schools, a rural district in central Minnesota between St. Cloud and Brainerd, has experimented with e-learning and flexible learning days, but the district has put its focus this year on other instructional priorities, said Wade Mathers, principal at Little Falls Community Middle School.

My daughter claims that her Charter school in St Paul won’t be moving to digital days and that in fact the teachers don’t assign homework that requires broadband access ever, in deference to students who don’t have access. That being said I can tell you she uses broadband for her homework daily. SO even if it’s not required, it is an incredible benefit for those who have it.

This entry was posted in education, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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