E-learning could forecast ‘working’ snow days

February 16, 2019

Future forecasts indicate students in Dekalb and Sycamore could see their snow-day-induced cabin fever combated by school work to do, online, from home.

Between the recent polar vortex knocking out five days of school in DeKalb School District 428, and snow days in abundance already, less than two months in to 2019, districts are looking to legislators in Springfield as they indicate the definition of a “traditional school day” is changing.

DeKalb District 428 Superintendent Jamie Craven said nothing can replace the one-to-one relationship between a student and teacher in a classroom setting.

“There’s no substitute for a student’s teachers,” Craven said. “And the best education, in my opinion, is with their teachers in a classroom. However, we’re in an age now where we have remote learning opportunities.”

In the DeKalb district, Craven said teachers have the opportunity to use Google Classroom. Google Classroom is a free platform provided by Google that allows students and teachers to streamline their communication process, turn in assignments, have them graded and stored in one spot.

Craven acknowledged this provides some obvious challenges already.

“Some of our families may not have access to internet, so how would we work through those challenges?” he pondered.

It’s a question on the minds of educators and legislators alike, including lawmakers who are members of the Senate Education Committee in Springfield.

On Jan. 29, the committee voted unanimously to reinstate the more traditional definition of a “school day,” defined as a minimum of five hours of direct supervision by a teacher per day, according to the Illinois General Assembly.

This limits the options for snow days to be considered legitimate learning time.

Craven said that some aspects of e-learning could be valuable, and said the district actually had a planned e-learning day pilot for October 2019, which now is up in the air pending approval from Springfield.

“We haven’t really had the opportunity to pilot this and find the positives and negatives [yet],” Craven said. The pilot e-learning day would be district-wide, including kindergarten and elementary levels.

In Sycamore, Kris Webster, director of learning and teacher for District 427, said D-427, too, is excited for the possibilities, although the e-learning concept is still in its infant and hypothetical stages.

“It’s a new option that the state’s given us,” Webster said. “The teacher-student relationship is obviously the most important thing, so how do we harness technology that engages students in a meaningful way?”

Craven said the District 428 is just waiting on direction from Springfield for next steps.