FORSYTH COUNTY -- Students are back in the swing of the school year after an extended break, the bulk of it winter weather-related, from Feb. 11-17.
There was some catching up to do, though not nearly as much as there would have been a decade ago, thanks to technology, Forsyth County school system officials said.
Via text messages, emails and “its Learning,” the system’s online tool, students stayed in contact with teachers throughout the week, turning in homework assignments, working on projects and checking in with teachers.
“We forewarned our kids and said to expect that you need to check ‘its Learning’ and use that as a resource,” said Brittany Cantrell, honors biology teacher at Lambert High School. “We put together a mini-project that was a self-guided project.”
Amy Bales said her students at Little Mill Middle School were in the middle of reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” when the storm began.
“The first day they were out, I had them complete a vocabulary quiz in ‘its Learning,’” she said. “The next day, I gave an assignment with some discussion questions where they had to pull textual evidence ... and respond to three discussion questions online.”
Forsyth is fortunate to have a high population with Internet access, but Bales said there still were some challenges as at least three of her students didn’t have Internet access at home.
They spent some time early this week catching up in the media center, taking the quizzes other students had handled from home. By Wednesday, they were caught up.
“When we came back [Tuesday], it felt like we could pick back up and it didn’t feel like we were playing catch up,” she said.
A fourth student without Internet access in her home went to a neighbor’s house to use their service and complete her work.
“They’re becoming very resourceful,” Bales said. “It shows they’re advocating and looking for alternate opportunities when they don’t have the resources available.”
Coal Mountain teachers Penni Arner and Tracey Abercrombie worked together with a colleague to send guidelines home to students and parents, along with an email. They also had discussion boards so students could interact with each other.
“What we found was really neat is the kids were answering each other’s questions,” Arner said. “About half the kids participated and for those kids that participated, they definitely moved on. What a great way to differentiate those kids that are self-directed learners.”
For the half of students who didn’t complete work from home, Abercrombie said they had to review that information while their classmates got to continue learning through a Minecraft program.
Abercrombie noted, however, that it’s typical for students to work at different paces.
“We don’t move to teach kids all at the same pace. Our job is to make sure we allow them to move at their pace,” she said. “I spent a little bit of time reviewing and going over polygons ... but I had about half the class ready to go.”
Not everything could be done online, Bales said.
“They were supposed to have a test on Thursday, but I didn’t give them the test online because there was no way I could guarantee they weren’t using their notes and study materials,” she said. “But I don’t feel like they missed a lot at all.”