Sunday, February 15, 2015

Snow Days are sNOw Problem

When you live in Southern Indiana, you never know what kind of winter you are going to get.  Some years we may scrape by with a few school delays, and then there are years such as last where we get absolutely pummeled with constant snow and ice.  In total, we lost 17 days of instruction through the 2013-2014 winter.  We made up all of these snow days by extending our days by one hour for weeks on end.  

As much fun as THAT was, this year we were very excited with the prospect of Virtual Days when snow came a calling.  Except, well, the snow has decided to snub its nose at us and instead bury our northern neighbors this winter.  We’ve had a whopping ONE snow day, and that was way back in November.  

Quite honestly it’s been a blessing for many reasons. Not only has our instruction been consistent this winter, but we’ve been able to truly prepare for Virtual Days the way we need to.  There were many questions to consider for our school system concerning Virtual Learning Days.  Everything from student connectivity to providing on-call services has been questioned and subsequently answered.  For our 3rd-12th graders, this was to be a bit easier as they take their devices home daily.  The biggest questions remained for our littlest students.  How would they fare taking their devices home? What would their instruction look like?  

When asked to share with our school board an example lesson plan for primary students for Virtual Learning Days, our wheels started spinning.  Since technology is infused into our curriculum daily, it wasn’t hard to think of lessons the kids could complete using their iPads.  We also had to consider the fact that a good portion of our students don’t have internet access at home.  While this doesn’t pose a problem, it does show the importance of making sure kids are CREATING, not just engaged in a program.  (Amen!)

After presenting at the school board meeting, along with some wonderful intermediate grade counterparts, the board approved our Virtual Learning Day trial for February 16.  We are excited that this possibility is now a reality.  We are confident that this option for our wack Southern Indiana weather will help save summer.  

First and foremost, the app that will be the thread that holds these assignments together is the Book Creator app.  Whatever you do, get this app.  It is versatile, engaging, and so incredibly useful.  My students use it daily for our reading response notebooks (formerly done in spiral bound notebooks) and our math journals (formerly a cut-and-paste mess in a composition notebook).  For our VLD, we created a book that is the one-stop-shop for our student assignments.  A fantastic feature of this app is that you can record sound to each page.  The issue of parents not being off work on Monday, with students left to complete assignments at daycare?  No problem!  Just record yourself saying the directions, and students can complete this independently!

To create a book such as this one in Book Creator, simply create slides in Keynote (or PowerPoint, if that's how you roll), and save them as images. Then, I loaded the images into Google Drive, and inserted them into the Book Creator app as a new book. To push the book out to students, I loaded the completed book into eBackpack (Showbie would be a great alternative to this task as well.) and pushed it out to my students. Before leaving school on Friday, students downloaded the books to their devices. They were ready to roll!

Here is a peek into what Brittany's kiddos will be engaged in from home on that day.

Brittany's Lesson Plans

Tiffany's Lesson Plans (original plans)  I need to give credit to my teaching partner, Kala Cudjoe for the Book Creator work.  It was her fantastic idea to put everything into one space.  Since I am out on maternity leave, she really took the lead on creating our Book Creator eLearning Day book! 

Sample Page from our Book Creator eLearning Day book.
Students will add photos to the above mat.

Here are the original plans we created for this day.  They were later modified.

Later we added thumbnail photos of the apps and tweaked a few activities 
to work for our entire first grade team.  

This first grader is learning from the comfort of her own couch! Priceless!

1 comment:

  1. I am in Jennings County in southern Indiana. We are attempting 1:1 devices and virtual snow days all in one year. We'd like to consider using Book Creator for our ipads for grades K-2. We've purchased the app, but that's about as far as we've gotten. I'm curious about how you pushed the book out to all of the students. I'm not familiar with ebackpack so I'll have to look it up. Our platform is Google Classroom here, but that wouldn't push the book to all of them within the app itself. I'll have to look into that more. Thanks for the great idea.