Fall is an increasingly brief season here in the Northeast, so as temperatures finally start dropping, my thoughts move toward winter and a trend we started observing last year in which schools are replacing snow days with elearning days. During these days, students may attend webinars, Skype sessions, or work online completing on-demand learning modules. Living in New York City, where our new Mayor didn’t seem to know what a snow day was last winter, I’ve got a lot of sympathy for our kids having to trek through storm conditions to make it to school. Wouldn’t it be great if we had “E-Learning Days” instead?
Beyond the obvious benefits of reducing days missed when an actual snow day is called, or the challenges of getting everyone to the buildings when a snow day is not called, this approach goes a long way to building our kids’ skills at navigating technology-enhanced learning experiences and future workplace skills in both formal and informal ways.
1. Virtual Workplace Skills
Many of us have been working vitually for years. How many of you recall what your first virtual gig was like? By building in full-day “E-Learning Days” into the school calendar, we are prepping our young people for a world in which more and more jobs are either full-time virtual or at least some portion.
2. Online Study Skills
While nearly all school kids these days use the Internet for some portion of their homework research or support, working through activities designed specifically for the Web will contribute to computer and Web literacy. Building these skills over time through both formal and informal Web-based activities can help cut through some of the cacophony our kids are exposed to when left to their own devices (literally). These skills are essential to the 21st century workplace.
3. Independent Study Skills
Individual assignments can help to address specific gaps in certain academic areas, or can be used to allow students to explore certain topics in depth according to personal interest. Either way, E-Learning Days can be used to focus on individualized learning and help strengthen students’ skills and motivation. So much of what we learn on the job is individualized or self-directed. What better way to prepare for that than while still in school? A brief check-in via Skype with a classroom teacher could provide just the type of targeted feedback students need to progress with these activities.
4. Group Study Skills
Group projects seem to be the most challenging of all in the K-12 realm. But somehow, when we get to the workplace, we are expected to work in teams to complete projects and make money for our employers.
E-Learning Day group projects could be incorporated into a curriculum to help build these skills over time. Rubrics for and guidance in navigating team communications, team motivation, and creating a congenial group/team working environment could significantly improve the quality of not only the group experience but the actual project as well.
5. Online Communications Skills
Do kids really need this, you ask? Well, sure, most of our kids can text and use SnapChat, Facebook messaging, etc., but using an online chat tool, such as Skype, for example, to conference with teachers, group members, peer advisors, etc., could take these skills to new (and more productive) levels. All of us in the workplace turn to these tools as part of the daily process of getting our jobs done, in both formal (webinars, team meetings) and less formal (just-in-time support for an urgent work problem) ways.
“E-Learning Days” (and more than three of them a year) can bring us a lot closer to a 70:20:10 learning model in which formal and informal learning interventions and collaborative experiences are blended to create a more realistic and pragmatic K-12 school experience.
And that can bring our students a lot closer to being prepared to enter the workplace!
Keep watching us at Designs2Learn for more on the latest learning trends across the educational continuum.