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Teachers use internet, social media to connect with their students on snow days [Lexington Herald-Leader :: ]
[February 10, 2014]

Teachers use internet, social media to connect with their students on snow days [Lexington Herald-Leader :: ]

(Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 11--Even though Bullitt Central High School teacher Angela Hamblen's students have been out of school for 13 snow days, the date for their Advanced Placement history test in May is firm.

So Hamblen is using the social media network Twitter and her classroom website to communicate with students so they don't get behind.

Hamblen said her students "deserve the opportunity to do well on these exams. I'm doing what I have to to make it happen." Hamblen is among the Kentucky educators and parents who are trying to keep students learning in a winter in which several districts have had more than 10 instructional days cancelled due to snow and cold.

The work teachers give students on snow days is generally optional and is considered enrichment or extra credit.

In Lexington, Henry Clay calculus Advanced Placement teacher Linda Dewees -- whose students also have a test deadline -- said she posts videos of herself teaching online, going over homework or asking bonus questions that students can get extra credit for answering.

"The students want to learn and I hate it that snow days take away their time in the classroom," said Dewees.

Renea Buckles said it has been helpful that Clay Sutherland, one of her child's teachers at Morton Middle School, sent home a math snow day packet last week.

"He just sent a note home and an e-mail to the parents letting them know that this packet was for the kids to work on in the event of another snow day so that they wouldn't get too far behind," Buckles said.

"We've received lots of e-mails from all the teachers about what the kids need to be doing during snow days, keeping up on their reading," and working on vocabulary.

Sutherland said he doesn't send home new material for snow days. He said the math work that he sent home in the packet was an attempt to get students to practice work that he had previously covered in class.

Owsley County, a small district with 750 students total in its one elementary and one high school, has had a pilot program for four years in which snow days are innovative instructional days for teachers and students who can work online from home, said superintendent Tim Bobrowski. The district had missed 22 days as of Monday and the superintendant anticipated that school would be cancelled on Tuesday.

Wilson Sears, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, has long contended that the ultimate solution to the snow-days problem is using the internet to help students keep learning at home.

"If we can't get the kids to the schools, we need to be able to get school to the kids through technology," he said.

Martin County Superintendent Steve Meadows said more bandwidth would be needed to make it work in Martin and other Eastern Kentucky counties, he said.

Improved high-speed Internet service was one of the needs identified at the recent Shaping Our Appalachian Region conference. Congress has directed $10 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission to develop broadband in counties economically distressed by declines in the coal industry.

Meadows thinks that would help a lot.

"It would go a long way, particularly in rural parts of Eastern Kentucky where people are challenged just to get to the store in winter, much less to school," he said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears ___ (c)2014 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) Visit the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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