Student attendance is an ongoing issue in schools across the world and everyone is trying to gain ultimate success in their own different ways. Likewise teacher attendance is imperative in school on a daily basis…or is it?
- How often are students absent from school without reason?
- Could we offer learning to students who were absent from school simply because they have a broken leg and need to keep the injury protected?
- Are teachers still able to teach their class if they are unable to attend school due to their own child being ill?
These are all questions that I have asked myself from both a personal and professional perspective in recent times.
I am fortunate enough to have held a position in our school where I was able to do a lot of work from home on school days. I had no classes timetabled and I had to manage our LMS, therefore I was able to choose my location of work on many of these days. I was well disciplined and able to achieve more in a standard ‘home’ day than at school simply due to the lack of interruptions and increased focussed time. When I needed a break I was able to take one and I was also able to multi-task and get some household chores done during my ‘breaks’. I believe in my experiences my productivity increased on the days I was not at school – even though I had to drop off and pick up my own children from school on these days.
This video is a great discussion starter for not physically attending work locations. Although it has a focus on office work it easily translates ideas into education. Thanks to Terry Heick for his blog post Forcing Mobile Learning On The World which inspired me to write today.
I understand the inequity with technology in student homes and that students may not be as disciplined as teachers in attending online classes, but I do not believe this is a valid excuse for everyone. As we know from research that more and more students k-12 are participating in online courses that focus more specifically on their learning needs at the time. Therefore I believe it will be in the not too distant future that these ideas will become more mainstream.
I would like to propose an alternative to teachers having to take a sick day when they are unable to attend a school site for whatever reason. Here is my scenario and how I would envisage the management of such an event:
Teacher Mr Jim was playing basketball on the weekend and sprained his ankle. He has been advised to rest his leg for 2 days. Mr Jim is well, just unable to physically attend the school site. Mr Jim teaches a year 6 class at the local school. Mr Jim has a laptop computer with a web camera and Google Apps for Education is used throughout the school.
Mr Jim calls the daily operations manager at the school to advise that he is unable to attend school. His class will still attend school as normal and Mr Jim will also teach and be available to participate in class discussion. Supervision of his class can be coordinated through support staff or other teachers within the school who can be on-hand to supervise students (not someone who has been called in and paid for the day to teach, as this would defeat the purpose and incur unnecessary cost on the school).
Mr Jim will deliver his lessons via a class Site with full instruction and resources presented. His students will complete their work on Google Docs that are shared with Mr Jim and other students or collaborators as necessary. Mr Jim may have video contact with the classroom. Alternatively students can email or direct message him throughout the day and have live conversations with him and get direct instruction or feedback where necessary.
All of this could happen and students are suitably monitored, thus reducing the number of discipline interruptions throughout the day, which generally increase as soon as a relief teacher steps into the classroom and learning continues seamlessly.
Upon his return Mr Jim does not have to catch up on what has and has not been covered during his absence and learning can continue as if there was no interruption. He also has a resource that students can return to time and again for further information or expansion of knowledge.
I agree this is an idyllic scenario, but in no way do I see this as a far fetched idea, that in this day and age of technology and connectivity why at schools we can’t embrace these ideas. I also recognise that there would need to be some foundations set to ensure supervising adults are aware of how this scenario would work and students would have a clear understanding of the functions and features of the Google Apps for Education suite. Each student would also need access to a device that they were able to work on. For more practical classes such as sciences and Physical Education etc. this scenario would need somewhat more consideration and management, but by no means would it be unmanageable, as long as school leadership are on-board with the concept and the teacher is willing and able to participate.
I also propose that the above scenario could be flipped to a student being unable to attend school, but physically able to participate in class work and discussions. In this case the student could connect via video call to view practical demonstrations and participate in discussions, they would be able to complete tasks and as the teacher questions throughout the lesson via email, comments on a document or via live chat.
Would this help curb the attendance issues you have in your school? I would love to hear your thoughts on this concept and how your school could adopt a similar scenario.
Thanks for reading