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Like many other students, I always got excited for the first couple winter storms each year, eagerly speculating if a "freebie" day off of school would come with it. I emphasize only the first couple winter storms, though. Why? When the snow days were used up, losing spring break or extra days in June cast a dramatically ominous shadow on the thought of another free day at home in winter. In the past couple years, however, the face of technology in education has started to change the world of snow days as we know it.
Some school districts have deployed "One-to-One" systems where every student is given a laptop or tablet, facility wireless LAN is beefed up to handle the traffic and platforms are created to turn education virtual. New phone and unified communication systems make web, digital, and even video conference rooms much easier to use. This new technological school system has made it possible keep the learning going even though the school physical location may be closed.
According to CNN, several different school systems are piloting programs this month that turn snow days into "cyber days." The technology is already in place and students, parents and teachers understand it, so the next step is implementing it.
For example, at Pascack Valley Regional School District in New Jersey, the superintendent "alerted teachers that he expected to cancel classes and asked them to develop lessons students could complete from home" when snow was in the forecast. The next day, students were able to join virtual classroom spaces and complete their assignments from their laptops at home, even if taking breaks to shovel outside.
Educators and students alike have expressed their support of the new system in other school communities as well.
"I like to work because we get to go over things. It's easier, when we come back we're not behind," said Hanna Laghetto, a student at Coyle and Cassidy High School in Taunton, MA.
Approval from education boards to count virtual days towards the yearly school hour requirement has not been secured by all districts with the new concept yet, but adoption of this will undoubtedly continue to grow. As school communities continue to improve their infrastructure and systems, the possibilities will expand for continued learning on snow days or other necessary emergency closures.
With fewer worries of a shortened spring break or summer extension, the idea of school at home on a snow day might not be as bad as it first seems for students. I think I would have grown to accept it as well.