Bad weather does not have to cancel school any more, thanks to cyberspace.
Because of the heavy and endless Winter of 2014, many American elementary and secondary schools used up their allotment of “snow days’’ before February, historically winter’s worst month, even rolled around.
Thus came the creation of the new concept, Cyber Day or Virtual Day.
With the continued growth of educational uses of technology, teachers are able to hold class even without the students present. E-mail, texting, video conferencing and internet sources all provide means for teachers to reach their students even when weather prevents them from getting to school.
The benefits of such ideas are numerous: students remain engaged in their studies, the school calendar for summer break remains intact, and the costs associated with cancelling school are nullified.
The disadvantages include dealing with students who do not have internet access at home; the possibility that storms could cause power outages, and the problem that exists with snow days: parents are required to stay home from work.
In the past, in areas where snow days are common, students are often required to take all of their school books home with assignments handed out the day before an expected storm, just in case they stay home. If the snow day happens, students just have a day to do their new homework. If the snow day does not materialize, they drag all of those books back to school.
Today, many school districts are issuing every student a tablet (paid for by parents), from which students can access web sites and internet educational sources. Teachers can even conduct class in something resembling a normal class day by video-conferencing with students at a time designated on the class’s web site.
It is not a perfect system, although it can handle issues like attendance (students must send an email saying they are aware of their assignments) and requirements (students who are “in attendance’’ obviously know what is expected of them).
“Technology offers some promise in terms of mitigating some impact,’’ said Dick Flanary, deputy executive director for programs and services for the National Association of Secondary School to CNN. “Depending on a particular child, what kind of learner the child may be, how diligent will they be to engage on a snow day in some sort of academic pursuit when it is considered a vacation day?”
A 2013 Pew Research poll showed that only one-fifth of American students have access to the Internet at home, either because they don’t have a home network set up or they don’t have their own monitor to use.
Teachers say class participation is hampered by Virtual Days, although some students are more likely to participate via social media like Twitter than they are in school because there is less of a stigma attached to such “vocalizing”.
None of the new technology can positively affect the one aspect of cancelling school that causes the most headaches: What do working parents do? That consideration is often the one that outweighs educational concerns.
"We lose a lot of sleep over it," said Gregory Hutchings, superintendent of Shaker Heights schools in Ohio to CNN.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.