Another snow day in The South; while locals lament the inability to buy more bread and milk than logic allows, something else is happening. One of the largest counties in the state has advertised “Digital Learning Days” again with their cancellation notice. What does this new education venture mean?
Digital Learning Days for Students
If students are able to complete work from home during days when school locations are closed it means a couple of things for students.
The curriculum may be truncated. Electives likely are not completed in the same way and school work itself changes format. Instead of being one of many completing the same task, students are now likely the only students doing this assignment. Efficiencies of the classroom may not apply in this situation. Students will need to be more independent to complete work and use the support systems they learned about in class at home.
Students may not have to make up seat time. Different places can take advantage of differing laws, but during official states of emergency governments can forgive a given number of school days. By completing work, but not compelled to make up hours, students can progress in their learning, without going longer into the summer months.
Students progress through their work at their own pace. With pared down work and the flexibility complete when convenient throughout the day, students can experience autonomy often not available at most schools.
Digital Learning Days for Parents
If students are not at school, they are most likely with their parents, most likely at home.
Parents can observe their child(ren) as a learner(s). It is a rare opportunity to see your child interact with school work outside of homework. If the work completed on a Digital Learning Day is adequately rigorous, the parent may gain some insight they previously did not have about their student(s). This could enlighten or frustrate parents.
Parents can judge the value of the content sent home by the teacher or school. While the goal of a digital learning day is for school to carry on from the point of instruction the day before teachers sometimes have “special” work they send home for such days. As digital learning days mature, expect less snow-based activities and more continuations of the learning sequence from the classroom offered via digital platforms. In the majority of schools with infrequent DLDs, expect less mature learning opportunities at present.
As digital learning days mature, expect less snow-based activities and more continuations of the learning sequence from the classroom offered via digital platforms.
Parents can value teachers and the school based on their experience of that digital learning day. Or they can second guess them. The best way to combat this is to communicate often and with unity. Parents should receive the same message, regardless of the way they receive their information. Schools within a district should not appear to have different levels of rigor, different time on task for the day(s), or different expectations. A common district message, tailored to each school will result in better parental understanding than different messages for different groups. Parents praise schools which leave little doubt of expectations, parents question schools which give few guidelines and require parents to guess and wonder.
Digital Learning Days for Schools
If students stay at home with their families, communication and the quality of instruction are on display. In large districts this can be an exercise of hope and faith, as the capabilities of every classroom teacher are on display. Schools need to support the teachers who are still improving their instruction, but are not there yet. These should be known educators and can be paired with others who have excelled already. Technology is sometimes unpopular because of the transparency it brings to the quality of education happening behind closed doors.
Preparation, or lack of it, is evident in what is sent home to families. Parents will judge is the work is meaningful. Do families also have directions, deadlines, and access to support?
Parents may not have the background for teaching their children at various grade levels, or teaching at all. While many are fine, expect some complaints due to lack of familiarity with the teaching process. And expect that some less than desirable teaching may be revealed early in the transition from Snow Days to Digital Learning Days. Parents likely never completed a digital learning day while in school, so educating home is as important as educating students and staff about digital learning days.