No school, no problem: Learning goes on
Because school was called off for three straight days recently due to snow and bitter cold, Minneota administrators utilized e-learning to make sure its students continued learning while not having to extend the school year.
“The e-learning days count as full school days,” said High School Principal Jeremy Frie. “We are approximately nine to 11 days over the state required minimum number of days required. We realize it’s not a minute for minute comparison between a regular school day and an e-learning day.”
This is the first year that Minneota Public School has implemented the e-learning process.
“Since we have 1:1 technology and we are already utilizing Google Classroom, IXL, Study Island and others, it seems reasonable that we could provide students with the materials they would need to complete work they’ve been assigned in school,” said Elementary Principal Jen Mahan-Deitte.
“The elementary students don’t take their devices home, but the elementary teachers prepared materials for students to take home last fall.”
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) allows five e-learning days in a school year. “Minneota has approved three e-learning days for 2018-2019,” said Mahan-Deitte.
“But the state allows for up to five. The Minneota School Board has the right to approve two more days this year if they would like.” Schools are required to have a minimum of 165 instructional days in a given school year, according to the MDE.
And with more future snow and cold possibly taking a chunk out of those days, Minneota administrators decided to make up for those days now with e-learning. “I enjoy the e-learning process,” said Minneota junior Nolan Boerboom.
“It is nice to not have to make up days of school. “It‘s very difficult to learn new things. So I think it helps keep us fresh on the things we have already been studying.
With such a long break, it is easy to forget what we have been doing.” Several other school districts are also utilizing the e-learning system when school is called off due to inclement weather, broken water pipes, or even bomb threats.
Teachers give assignments to the home-bound students in grades 7-12 on their school-issued devices, while K-6 students work on hard-copy assignments prepared ahead of time. It is also possible to access the content through a home computer. Daily assignments are put online through Google Classroom by various high school instructors, and students can access them there.
“Teachers are available via Google and e-mail all day,” said Frie. “I know my child had a question, emailed her teacher, and had an immediate response regarding the posted assignment.”
Social Studies teacher Jessica Rosa uploaded YouTube clips and readings for various classes.
“I was able to upload Rick Steves’ Reformation special for my World History course; where we are covering the Reformation,” she explained. “I also uploaded two clips of ‘The Men Who Built America’ for our current study of the Industrial Revolution.
“I also uploaded a couple of readings for various classes that we would have done in school anyway. We will review all of it in class to make sure they understood, but at least it helps us stay on track and not lose major days.”
Some of the students like the e-learning system, while others feel the e-learning assignments can be redundant on what they were already learning when school is in session, or even a bit confusing.
“I personally like the e-learning days,” said junior Natalie Bot.
“It was a bit confusing in some aspects, though. “With some assignments, I felt that the teachers underestimated the time requirements. I had an assignment that took me an hour and a half for just one class. It was something that was completely new, so I took up a bit of time just figuring out how to work the site.
“Overall, I feel that the e-learning days are beneficial. However, they lose their luster when it’s more than one day. The second day was the worst. It felt like I was doing more work on my virtual learning day than I had gotten done during some days of school.”
Instructors are ready to assist any students who might have a problem or question. “Administrators and parents can also view any assignments,” said Rosa.
“If a student has a question, they can ask at any time. I heard my email going off a few times (during the cancelled days) with kids asking questions.”
Students can check their assignments at any time during the day that school is called off. “I always check for my assignment after I wake up,” said Boerboom.
“Although I don’t always do all the assignments then, I try to plan out my day to get everything done.”
Rosa and many other teachers upload their assignments the first thing in the morning once it has been announced that school has been cancelled. “Or the night before if I know it’s a snowy day already,” Rosa said.
“Students can access it whenever they want to and can ask questions anytime.” “Days off of school are rarely days off for teachers anyways as we are usually grading or planning and updating our lessons.”
“So these snow days were productive for teachers as well as students. I did not give them hours of homework; just something appropriate for what we would have done in class that day.” Parents can be a part of the Google Classroom by accepting a request early in the year when a teacher sends it out.
Parents can then view what has been assigned to their son or daughter, what might be coming up, or what their child is doing overall. Students have the option of turning in their assignments the same day to show progress, or can turn it in when school resumes.
For example, one of the assignments Rosa uploaded was for her seventh-graders in which they had to write a letter in the perspective of a Civil War character.
The letter had to be about the assassination of President Lincoln and how it affected their character’s life. “We read those to each other the next day in school,” Rosa said. Minneota’s last day of school is scheduled for May 30.
Thanks to e-learning and the fact that Minneota has had no previous “snow days”, that date still appears safe.