The announcements are starting to come out on local tv and radio stations and their websites. In many locations it's official:
No school tomorrow!
As a child, those words were magical. As a teacher, they were the unexpected but appreciated gift of time.
But how much longer will weather dictate our educational schedule?
At the end of the work day today, I had meetings scheduled an hour away at the ESSDACK office for tomorrow. First, our monthly staff meeting will be held and then I have a planning session for an upcoming workshop.
Tonight, however, the "snow day" announcements have started surfacing for schools in that area...including the school of my workshop planning collaborator. This is where it gets interesting.
She is my FaceBook friend. What?! You use FaceBook for work? Why, yes I do. What a great way to stay up with my colleagues, clients, and co-workers as well as my friends! Right away, she sent me a direct message. "No school here tomorrow. You aren't making the drive are you?"
After confirming that slick roads are not on my agenda for tomorrow's activities, we decided what time we would meet. No driving necessary! We are meeting through the use of Skype.
And Skype was just one choice of many possibilities. If we didn't feel the need to see one another, we could just collaborate on a shared document through Google Docs. We could start a FaceBook group and share documents and ideas back and forth. We could share a TitanPad. Or we could bravely try something relatively new like Almost Meet.
Why was I planning to make the drive anyway?
Just kidding. Lots of research is available out there that shows the importance of social interaction. I'm not trying to insinuate that meeting face-to-face can be or should be eliminated. My point is, sometimes it's just not necessary. We can make do.
Teachers have a whole slew of tools available to instruct, remediate, reinforce, and enrich student learning online. In fact, many school websites today are actually highly-collaborative content management systems and not just online, static district "brochures".
And for those districts that continue to use a website that lacks interactivity, one link on a teacher's page can open up the collaborative possibilities. Maybe that one link is to edmodo, pbworks, or Google Apps for Education. Combine these with blogs, videos, tutorials, primary resource sites, and any of the myriad of amazing Web 2.0 tools that are available online (check out gotoweb20) and you can create one heck of an engaging, creative atmosphere for your students. Virtually.
All have free versions. All are engaging. All are relevant. Did I mention they are all free?
Education no longer needs to be from 8:00 to 3:00, Monday through Friday, weather permitting. With an engaging teacher and the right tools, education can be 24/7.
Even on snow days.
Side note: While researching for this post, I noticed that the current featured classroom on edmodo is our own Mrs. Smokorowski from Andover! (There is a link on the page to a great video of this dynamic teacher and her students.) Congratulations Smoke!