Screen time has new meaning for students

Educators relying on digital learning while schools are closed for 'act of God' days


Last updated 3/18/2020 at 4:24pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

Hinsdale Middle School students rehearsed "The Five Pound Sack," a one-act play, on Tuesday, just days before Community Consolidated District 181 had decided to close schools through April 6. The governor Friday closed Illinois schools through March 30.

Hinsdale High School District 86 was scheduled to conduct a second pilot day of e-learning this spring.

Now students at Hinsdale Central and those in Community Consolidated District 181 are relying on digital learning every day while schools are closed to help close the spread of COVID-19. Schools in both districts will be re-open April 6 at the earliest.

Dave Lapetino, instructional innovation coordinator and architect of the e-learning plan in District 86, said he's glad the system had a trial run last year.

"Having had that experience from the teachers' end was a huge benefit," he said. "It allowed us to have kind of a structure to build on as we try to expand what we're doing during this extended remote learning."

Teachers are using a learning management platform called "Canvas" that allows them to record attendance and offer assignments. How each teacher is approaching e-learning varies, Lapetino said.

"There's definitely a spectrum of what students will find once they sign in and look at those assignments," he said.

Students might be asked to complete a reading assignment and problems for a math class or watch as their teacher livestreams a lecture through Google Hangout. Activities in a particular class might be very similar to what occurs at school or very different.

E-learning began Tuesday, and teachers spent significant time over the weekend and on Monday preparing for the launch, Lapetino said.

"The average teacher has probably spent maybe 20 hours just to get ready for the next several days, whether it was brainstorming or actually creating the plans and having them in Canvas," he said, noting that he received several emails from teachers throughout the day and evening Monday.

The schedule is designed to create a balance between the need to prepare students for things like Advanced Placement tests in May and the challenges of this situation. Classes are scheduled with hour breaks built in and each course meeting every other day. Lapetino said he hopes parents know educators did their best to create a reasonable compromise.

"We've definitely tried to balance work and home life and other expectations with the schedule that we have for each day," he said.

In District 181, students in preschool through second grade will use Choice Board, which gives students options for differentiated digital and nondigital learning opportunities, said Jamie Lavigueur, communications director. Students in third through eighth grade will use Google Classroom or another digital platform to access their assignments and expectations, with teachers available to interact with students from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school days.

District staff, building principals and administrators have been working on an e-learning plan since the first COVID-19 cases were identified in January, according to Kathy Robinson, assistant superintendent for learning in District 181.

"Parents have responded very positively and are pleased that we have a plan in place to continue instruction," she wrote in an email.

Gov. JB Pritzker Friday ordered all public and private schools in Illinois close through March 30. Districts 181 and 86 had their spring break scheduled the week of March 30 through April 3.

The days will not be counted as instructional days by the Illinois State Board of Education, but as "act of God" days. Districts have been told to continue to provide instruction and that additional days will not be required at the end of the year, Lapetino said.

He noted the stress the situation is placing on District 86 students. The activities department at Hinsdale Central High School is trying to help students maintain a positive attitude by having a virtual Red Devil spirit week, with students asked to wear PJs or school colors and post photos to social media.

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Lapetino thanked families for their cooperation.

"These are unprecedented times," he said. "We appreciate everyone's flexibility."

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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