After hurricane, technology eases return to school
After hurricane, technology eases return to school
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Smartphone exchanges and social media. Messaging apps and 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 from Houston teacher Kristen McClintock 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 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 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. Mariel 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 the electricity. Electricity is necessary to power electronics. The U.S. territory has 350,000 students.

The Orange County district, like others, has strict rules. These rules prohibit penalizing students who lack access to electricity or the 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 using 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 or drive away teachers. But they are also seen as openings to expand "virtual teaching" - services that have teachers providing instruction remotely by video conference.

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

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

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does online work when brick-and-mortar schools can’t?
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COMMENTS (10)
  • holdenj-orv
    10/13/2017 - 01:55 p.m.

    Great news! Kids in Florida finally have access to School Technology

  • aiyanaa-orv
    10/13/2017 - 02:14 p.m.

    2.8 kids is a lot of kids missing school. It would be cool If we had 75,000 laptops in our school! It would help because if they had another situation like that they could do stuff on the internet.

  • ashlynd-ris
    10/17/2017 - 12:47 p.m.

    If they added this to all schools then even if students missed days then they could make up their work at home, if they were sick or had a dentist appointment. It could revolutionize the art of teaching. It would allow students to work at their own pace, That is my opinion.

  • jeremyj-orv
    10/18/2017 - 11:31 a.m.

    It is amazing that kids are returning to school so soon after the hurricane i would be happy to return to school.

  • Vivian-bla
    10/19/2017 - 09:18 a.m.

    Online works instead of brick-and mortar schools because students who were affected from previous storms like Irma and Harvey are unable to get written work, so online helps these students still learn even when they are not able to go to school. This helps them be more ready to learn when they get back to school again.

  • 24crkutc
    11/13/2017 - 10:59 a.m.

    It is good now because everybody is going back to school from the hurricanes. Its pretty bad that kids couldn't go to school.It is also pretty cool that every kid gets a laptop to help them learn! Now having laptops to help kids learn is a great idea. Now kids can learn now eaiser.

  • 24aenagy
    11/13/2017 - 11:11 a.m.

    That is great news! Kids are able to use computers and laptops again, after Hurricane Irma and Harvey. It is also good news because, there can be homework that requires a computer. And they should be very greatful beacause they get to have new computers at there school.

  • 24amwalk
    11/14/2017 - 10:30 a.m.

    they don't because they are are made out of mortars. and the school WiFi is bad. and they may have a bad connection. and they may not have the money to get it.

  • 24amwalk
    11/14/2017 - 10:38 a.m.

    they way not have a good connection. their schools are made of mortars may go off. they may not be able to pay for it. they school may not different things. and they may be a poor country after the hurricane

  • 24msleon
    11/16/2017 - 10:32 a.m.

    Online still works when brick and mortar schools can't because students that had gotten affected fro hurricanes can't get written work, so online helps those kids learn even if they cannot go to school. I think that kids should have lots of protection from natural disasters. Kids are special. They need to be safe to help other people. And natural disasters can kill most people in the areas.

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