A good deal has already been written about the end of snow days at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, IL.
As it should be.
Certainly, kids should be kids, and they should go out and play in the snow.
I suspect, though, that even on elearning snow days, they will find the time.
The incentive toward greater student engagement and productivity while working in an elearning environment is certainly influenced by the deployment of effective online pedagogy aligned with Bill Pelz’s principles.
Productivity in particular, though, is probably most influenced by the simple pull of fun in the outdoors, or perhaps the pull of the sofa and a video game. For adolescents, in particular, knowing that you’re confined to a single space for a given time – the bells at school, the four walls of a few different classrooms – can demotivate. The current paradigm also doesn’t allow for high school students to start the process of making difficult choices such as the ones they will face in college or the work world – whether to put work before play, and how best to manage time.
Gibault’s move toward eteaching and elearning in virtual spaces on snow days represents a significant step toward fulfilling the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning to better suit the needs of a modern and highly mobile – and sometimes immobilized – world.
It should be celebrated, studied, and refined.
Gibault is helping its students prepare for participation in a world which will require a high tech skill set as well as a lifelong learner, work-on-the-go mindset.
It both acknowledges the motivational sway of flexible schedules and makes the most of the hardware and software available today, technology already the palms of so many hands and facilitating a paradigm shift toward anytime, anyplace learning in virtual spaces.
From the “Snow Day Simulation” rollout to actual full-on implementation, Gibault has proceeded thoughtfully, and initial signs of student and teacher buy in are apparent.
Soon, if not already, the rollout evaluation and the harder questions will come. What kinds of skills and content are being cultivated and delivered on those elearning snow days? How profound is the collaboration between peers in the virtual spaces deployed? To what degree is formative assessment, statistical sampling, and scaffolding happening in My Big Campus? Is there a philosophical framework for the whole enterprise, such as Pelz’s principles of effective online pedagogy?
But today, I celebrate Gibault Catholic High School for making important strides toward fulfilling the promise of technology, and toward preparing its students to compete in a global economy and a technology-infused society.
I celebrate the students of Gibault for seizing the opportunity their school has given them to learn WITH technology, and to view their computers, tablets, and smartphones as cognitive tools rather than as simple entertainment-delivery systems.
Just don’t forget to play in the snow some, too.