After hurricane, technology eases return to school
After hurricane, technology eases return to school
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Smartphone exchanges. Social media. Messaging apps. Websites. They all helped students. They rendered students and their teachers at once disconnected and connected in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Now advocates of technology say it will only become more important in aiding students scattered by the storms. This recovery has potential to demonstrate how much instruction can carry on outside school walls amid future natural disasters and other disruptions. That's what administrators say.

"Oh, it was wonderful," said Gay Foust. Emailed and texted materials came from Houston teacher Kristen McClintock. They helped Foust's daughter. Her daughter has autism. She coped with the disruption of having to stay at a friend's home when their house flooded during Harvey.

"We're not in Miss McClintock's classroom. We're not in school. And yet she was able to reach out and check on all of her students and offer any kind of help, assistance," Gay Foust said.

Florida's Orange County Public Schools distributed about 75,000 laptops to middle and high school students and teachers earlier this year. The idea  is to personalize learning. They want to boost engagement. And they want to boost achievement. To do so, they are providing students with unlimited access to their textbooks. They are also providing access to other materials, schedules and assignments.

District officials were eager to assess how the devices fared in the students' care. This came after advising them through social media to charge and then unplug them and seal them in plastic bags. Now schools are prepared to reopen after Hurricane Irma.

Many teachers posted assignments. They posted them before school was canceled. That gave students a chance to get ahead. And college-bound students could continue preparing for the SATs.

"This is really our chance to make sure all of our systems are working the way we want them to." That's according to Mariel Milano. She is the director for digital curriculum.

There is one benefit when disasters strike. There are fewer textbooks to get soggy or wash away. But Hurricane Maria offered a reminder that even technology has its limitations. Authorities predict schools in Puerto Rico could be without electricity. It is necessary to power electronics. The U.S. territory has 350,000 students.

The Orange County district has strict rules. These rules prohibit penalizing students who lack access to electricity. Or those that don’t have internet outside of school.

In Florida all 2.8 million students missed school for at least two days because of Irma. That's according to Gov. Rick Scott. He said the state's existing virtual public school would provide remote access and materials to those who are still displaced. It would also provide digital replacements for resources brick-and-mortar buildings may have lost. The hardest-hit districts are only beginning to reopen. It's unknown how many students will enroll.

In the Houston area, 1.4 million students were affected by Harvey. They may find themselves taking virtual field trips. They may also be conducting online science experiments. They would use technology adopted by many schools in response to budget cuts.

Schools were still closed in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. It posted a three-page list of educational websites. These were for students at every grade level. They could access them as constructive time-fillers.

"So much of what they have been doing for years is all online. They're just used to doing it that way," said Nicole Ray. She is a district spokeswoman.

The disasters could leave buildings shuttered. They could drive away teachers. But they are also seen as openings to expand "virtual teaching.” These are services where teachers provide instruction remotely by video conference.

Orange County has been looking into a videoconferencing program. It is called Safari Montage Live. It will let students unable to make it back to town right away join their classrooms remotely. The program is being piloted now. It is for a class being "co-taught" by two teachers. They are in different buildings.

"We want schools to be successful when students return," Milano said. "We want connectivity to be happening in every classroom.  We want there to be that seamless uninterrupted period of learning."

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COMMENTS (7)
  • kpotter
    10/18/2017 - 01:55 p.m.

    I think that it is very smart for these schools to use the technology around them to benefit students who can't make it to school. The teachers found a way to reach out to their students so that they weren't behind in their education. They also had the opportunity to test out the technology that they got before the storm.

  • brobinson
    10/19/2017 - 09:55 a.m.

    It could be good to have students text book online. It would be good because if you live in a place that gets a lot of floods or storms then you wouldn't have to pay so much money to get new ones, and you will still be able to get all your work done.

  • lrutan
    10/19/2017 - 10:10 a.m.

    The article "After hurricane, technology eases return to school" by Carolyn Thompson informs people all across the world how technology can be a positive but also negative thing. It is very important children get educated even during the worst circumstances and technology allows that to happen. But now that technology has taken over teaching the teachers are now short of jobs. I don't believe that technology is the best way to learn because children can't have social interactions in person, but they can they can video chat. As virtual learning may be more beneficial for some it may not be the best way to learn for all.

  • aabbatiello
    10/19/2017 - 10:12 a.m.

    The devastation of a natural disaster is awful especially when it disrupts the access of education to students all over the areas that were hit by hurricane Harvey and hurricane Irma. The fact that schools that are currently shut down due to these hurricanes are accessing these online classes that is pretty much exactly the same as their classroom curriculum is amazing because it gives students the chance to learn in their temporary homes, and possibly the chance to even get ahead in their school work to maybe make their life a little easier and dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Harvey and Irma. The online classes are especially important to students that are seniors in schools that were affected by the hurricanes because it allows them to practice for their SAT's still, and get the credits that they need so that they can graduate on time.

  • ksteacy1
    10/19/2017 - 10:30 a.m.

    During many of the recent hurricanes online communication has been a key factor for students and teachers to stay in touch. This is important because while they cant be in school at least they can still get the basics of what they need to know so they don't fall behind. This also helps with many seniors graduating so they can still prepare for life after high school. Although they are not all together face to face they can still get the experience from school with online communication.

  • ametzler
    10/20/2017 - 02:01 p.m.

    Technology can help students during a traumatic event. If they are at school and something bad happens they will have contact to a parent or someone close to them. The students can us technology to do homework online, and to also get help with homework.

  • kturshman
    10/20/2017 - 02:01 p.m.

    Technology can help students during natural disasters when they can't be in school because teachers can assign them homework online. This way they are still getting their education without having to actually be at school.

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