Saturday, February 21, 2015

Virtual Learning Days

You can follow Tracy at her new blog: The Knit Wit Teacher

My district took a huge step this week in regards to Virtual Learning Days. Back in November we had a random snow day. Pure CrAzInEsS, to have a snow day that early!!! Mother Nature isn't my biggest fan.

Instead of making up the snow day like normal we had a Virtual Snow Day.

I'll be the first to tell you this took a TON of planning. We had some teachers in the district that loved the idea of a VLD and some that wanted nothing to do with it. But we all took that jump together. 

The first step was deciding who had internet. Our district sent out surveys so we could figure out who had internet access and home and who did not. Then we had to come up with ways to meet the needs of the students with internet, those without, and those with IEP's. 

Michelle and I used Google Docs to make our lesson plans together and we set out to make the VLD as normal as possible for out kiddos. 

The power of being 1:1 people. It's a beautiful thing. With the power of a few apps. Our plans were something we could stand behind and say that our students were still getting close to a normal day. Did they miss out on mini lessons and an actual teacher in front of them, yes. But it was still productive and with the possibility of a flipped classroom our next VLD could look very much like a normal day. 

Take a look at our VLD plans. Or check them out below. 

With the power of the app ebackpack:

Teachers have the ability to give students assignments that they can make offline. This allows students to work on any assignment without internet. This meant that every student was working on the same thing. Internet or lack of wasn't an issue. When they arrive back at school they can access the internet and submit their assignments. eBackpack has had a lot of glitches this year but the offline component is FINALLY working. eBackpack also gives the teacher the ability to "act like" any student. This allowed me to push assignments out to absent student's devices so they still had access. 

If you don't have eBackpack available to you NeuAnnotate is also a great app that allows students to download their work. Before eBackpack was working correctly I would upload assignments into MyBigCampus and students would download them from MBC into NeuAnnotate. 

eBackpack isn't perfect. It took my students awhile to get the hang of zooming in before they tried to write or using text boxes, but they are getting the hang of it. 

I like eBackpack because it allows me to grade easily at home without brining a ton of papers with me, I can create assessments that are then graded for me, and the offline component is opening up a whole new world to us. But it does have issues. Sometimes writing on paper is truly the best way to go. 

Now, did our VLD go off without any problems? Not at all. First of all teachers were required to go in like a normal day. We had office hours set so parents could contact us as well as PD. Mother Nature had other plans in mind. 

The snow started falling early Monday morning and our County was put under a Travel Advisory. This meant teachers were sent home at lunch. Due to our country roads being covered with snow and ice we missed out all week! 

We've had more snow fall today and our roads are once again a slushy mess. I'm not confident we will even be back in school on Monday! Sometimes I hate living in Indiana. 

But my students have been trained to check MyBigCampus every snow day and see if I have any activities for them to follow. Does every student do that? No....But I'm proud to say that a lot do. 

Michelle and I will be breaking down our Virtual Learning Day more over the next few weeks. Especially once we get feedback from our students. I'm sure we will have to make changes, but I'm thrilled that VLD will allow us, in the future, to have class prior to ISTEP (mandated state testing) instead of just adding the days on in June when everyone is over the school year. 

Have any of you participated in a Virtual Learning Day before? How did yours go?

Sound of below and let us know your thoughts or questions you have for us. 

In the meantime, I'm off to make a cuppa tea and to devour a box of Girl Scout cookies. ;) 

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