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Digital Learning Days

KGW-TV Report: When snowstorm keeps La Salle Prep students from school, they study online instead from La Salle Prep Communications on Vimeo.

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Digital Learning Days Keep Classes in Session Despite Snowstorms

Snow and ice kept La Salle students from attending classes this week, but it didn't keep them from learning.

As part of the school's first two "Digital Learning Days," each teacher went online by 10 am Monday and Wednesday to assign 30-40 minutes of work for every class each student would have attended that day. The students had until the afternoon or evening to complete and submit the assignments to the school's learning management system. All day long, the teachers answered questions via email.

"The core of this idea is to keep learning going for the students even when the weather does not allow us to be on campus," said Principal Andrew Kuffner. "We have all of these amazing digital tools at our fingertips and already integrated into our classes, why not leverage them in this way?"

A growing focus on digital learning

Digital Learning Days are possible, said Kuffner, because of La Salle's growing focus on digital learning to prepare students for college and work. The school's 1:1 Mobile Learning Program requires every one of its 700 students to have an iPad to take notes, submit assignments and read etextbooks. Students also take online classes on digital citizenship, rights and responsibilities, while teachers use technology to give students feedback and assess what they know.

Kuffner introduced Digital Learning Day this week because La Salle, like most schools in the Portland metro area, closed for four school days due to inclement weather in the past several weeks. If there are any more unscheduled closures, the school will have to add more instructional time to meet the state requirement of 990 hours per school year.

After getting the faculty's support, the principal surveyed students to see if they liked the idea of Digital Learning Day. Three-quarters of them favored the at-home online lessons over making up classes during finals week, teacher workdays, or at the end of the year.

So, after ice coated the area's streets on Monday, La Salle's first Digital Learning Day was born.

The first day of "digital" school

Students in one of Matt Owen's chemistry classes answered the teacher's questions while they watched a video via EDpuzzle, an online tool.

Students in Victoria McDonald's English 1 class took a quiz on "To Kill a Mockingbird."

And, using an online forum, students in teacher Mike Doran's economics class discussed a news article on a topic related to economics and a concept they've studied in class. The students then responded to classmates' posts.

Digital Learning Day from La Salle Prep Communications on Vimeo. In this video a student works from home on a math assignment while cuddling with her cat.

Students asked teachers questions via Schoology, the school's learning management system. Teachers encouraged students to collaborate via video conferencing.

Doran considers Digital Learning Day a sound option to another snow day because it keeps "the school year moving forward."

Junior Katie Moreland said she liked the digital learning concept at first. But the sheen wore off by 4 Monday afternoon, when she realized she had "a lot more work" than usual.

"I have been doing work since 9:30 this morning, and I still have work to do, with about a 30-minute break for lunch," she said.

Still, Moreland would rather learn online than lengthen the school year.

A few students emailed the principal to say they deemed the day well-spent.

"I feel as if the teachers as well as administrative staff did a great job of choosing the assignments for us to do," said senior Connor Denning. "It took the perfect amount of time and allowed everyone to stay safe. I think it was a very effective way of learning."

The evolution of a revolution

Kuffner said many parents appreciated the flexibility of Digital Learning Day. Not only did it keep their children off of unpredictable roads, it counted as 7 instructional hours.

There is room for improvement, he acknowledged. Students are figuring out how to pace themselves so they can get all their work done on time. Teachers are figuring out how to strike a balance between assigning enough and assigning too much.

Principal Kuffner proclaimed Monday's Digital Learning Day enough of a success that Mother Nature's mid-week roar led to a second Digital Learning Day on Wednesday.

"It isn't like students were sitting at home; they were engaged, they were learning," he said. "That's what we were going for."

See what students in Ms. Coleman's honors biology class did during DLDs

Isabella Griffiths

Emily Hawkins

Jaden Lee

Lura Price

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