Sunday, November 23, 2014

BYOD on a Semi-Snow Day

We had a bit of a strange day at school last Thursday: many, but not all, of the school buses in our district were cancelled.

This is a departure from the normal "snow day" routine, which is usually all-or-nothing (either ALL buses are running or ALL buses are cancelled). With 95% of our students requiring transportation, the morning's sporadic cancellations caused a lot of confusion for students and their parents. Many students who could have still taken the bus to school either didn't know their route was still running, or chose to not come in since many of their friends wouldn't be there.

Combined with hunting season (which usually sees a drop in student attendance to begin with), most classes had fewer than 6 students that day.

What happens in class when most students are away?

Teachers were scrambling - what to teach? Or is it just a day to "babysit?" Can we postpone review for a test? Do we try and move forward with the material when so many people are missing? Is there enough work for students to just sit and have a work period?

Students, on the other hand, were loving it! When asked what they did all day at school, one student answered: watched a movie in one class, watched videos in another, and played games in a third. Not much learning going on there.

While I admit I toyed with the idea of taking my classes outside to build a giant snowman (cue song from Frozen), I was instead reminded of one of the reasons I have loved switching my courses to BYOD.

Beauty of BYOD

For my grade 9 math class, every student in attendance was 100% productive. Because everything was front-loaded online, all materials were ready to go earlier in the week. I didn't have to prepare anything special for the day, and I didn't have to alter any of the material just because our class numbers had dropped.

Because every student works at their own pace, I don't dictate the pace by teaching full-class lessons. I didn't have to postpone a lesson until the next day, creating a void in our unit. No deadlines needed to be moved, either.

Because each student simply found where they left off the previous day and moved forward in the unit, we didn't "lose" a day of learning. Just like any other day, the students were able to get themselves settled and write the quiz. Or design their trophy. Or create nets to fold into shapes. Or compare calculated volume with the volume of water that would fit in a solid. Each and every one of them that was there, was productive.

Helping each other get caught up

And what of the students that couldn't make it in? With most of our resources are available online, had they wanted to, they could have worked through the material in order to come in ahead the next day.

If they weren't able to access material or instead chose to take a day to play in the snow, they at least knew that all the resources would still be there upon their return. Whenever my students come back after missing a day or two (for cancelled transportation or otherwise), they ask, "what did I miss?" I am always able to say "nothing! It's all right where you left off." A quick check of the tracking board, and they're back in the game.

To say that BYOD has completely changed my approach to teaching is an understatement. It has also changed my students' approach to learning, and their approach to school. At the end of one day last week, one of my students told me "I like ending the day with math class because it puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day." It doesn't get much sweeter than that.

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