Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Days = Learning Days

There are six of us in our household, and each of us either attend or work at different schools. Earlier, we all received the highly anticipated messages that our schools were closed today and tomorrow due to dangerously cold temperatures. The reaction was the same for each of us, "woo hoo!!!" For those of us that grew up in the northern U.S. latitudes, snow days are like being awarded "free" time. Kinda like finding a twenty dollar bill in the pocket of your jeans before washing them. In my earlier years, snow days were celebrated with sledding, skiing, snow fort building, and hot cocoa. We played cards or board games, read books, or watched TV while our boots and gloves dried out.


Since there was no virtual connection to our classrooms, school work was the last thing on our minds - but the learning continued. We learned how to make our sleds faster by waxing the runners. We learned how to build better snow forts by cutting out blocks of frozen snow. We learned that two table spoons of Hershey's syrup, and a handful of mini-marshmallows in warmed milk made a pretty mean cup of hot chocolate.

But what about snow days of today? There are several teachers I know (@FishPHS, @GradingGirl, @FilipekScience, @Kris_Stary) that will use social media, and digital technologies to make contact with their students and keep them engaged in learning even when class is not in session. They will use tools like YouTube, TalkBoard, TedEd, or SlideIdea to engage students in conversations about class content. Many of their students will have opportunities to celebrate their snow days by asking intriguing questions, and sharing their discoveries. Many learners, like me, are viewing today's school cancellation as a reward of "20% Time".

So far, I have used my bonus learning time to engage with others on Twitter, begin reading "Killing Kennedy", learn more about a polar vortex, research snorkeling opportunities in Punta Cana, and catch up on my blog. Other family members are using Pinterest, Minecraft, QuizUp, Facetime, and YouTube to engage and learn with friends on this cold, and blustery day. The tools and topics are unique to each user, but my observations indicate a definite engagement in fun, learning activities. The quiet of a polar-type winter has also given me time read and reflect on why we are so excited to get a day or two off from school.
  • In the name of Dave Burgess, can we make learning in school as exciting as learning away from school? 
  • In the name of A.J. Juliani, can we allow students the opportunity to learn about, and share what ignites their curiosity?
  • In the name of George Couros, can we use blogs to document authentic learning for authentic audiences?
What are you doing today to combat boredom and cabin fever? Hopefully, you and your students are staying safe and warm while using 20% time to learn something meaningful, and then using social media to connect and share their "learnings" with others. What are you learning on your snow day? How will you share your stories of personal growth?

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