School Life with No Connectivity

Thursday and Friday were interesting days at Tweedsmuir. Someone decided it would be a good idea to cut the fiber optic cable
b2ap3_thumbnail_bored.jpgsupplying the school. A act of purposeful vandalism is what the Bell technician told us, along with the fact that we would have no internet, printing, photocopying or access to home directories until the fiber was fixed. We could expect it to be operational again on Monday morning. Not only would this cause problems with teachers and students completing projects and preparing for lessons, the office would not have access to our student information system, attendance phone line, our supply teacher booking system TVARRIS or communications via FirstClass, Twitter, Facebook or our website. Would things grind to a halt, or would the school community roll with the punches and get on with learning. An interesting two days indeed.

Initially I joked that we should probably shut the school down as we wouldn't be able to do anything. As the first day came to a close and the realization that we wouldn't have connectivity until Monday I began to really wonder what the reaction of teachers and students would be. How would teachers deal with no printing and no photocopying? How would students react to no video announcements, no wireless connection to complete projects and research and how would the administration team deal with no communication or management tools? 

In the office we made our safe arrival calls using the paper copy of our students information sheets instead of looking them up in Trillium. We used our one phone line to make and receive calls from the outside world. Not ideal, but it worked out better than I expected. The real test of how things were functioning at the school would come from the students and teachers. Teachers had to make due with no photocopying and no printing (not such as bad thing), and no access to other electronic services like Learn360, D2L and the Internet. I decided to take an informal survey with the students as I visited classrooms on what they were missing over the 2 days. Here's what they told me:

  • video announcements
  • wireless for research and projects
  • no signing out books from the library
  • no trips to the computer lab to complete assignments
  • no access to classroom computers for ebooks, Tumble Books or listening centers
  • no access to D2L
  • no viewing school website, Facebook page or Tweets (unless we use our data plans on our phones)

It was interesting to hear their thoughts on what they were missing. I didn't hear any students complaining about a lack of photocopied sheets for assignments, nor did I hear that they desperately missed items that needed to be printed. What I heard from the students was that they missed the connectivity to all things electronic. Don't get me wrong, things didn't grind to a halt academically. Teachers still produced engaging lessons for the students and the office dealt with the cards we were given over the 2 days. The learning continued over our period of no connectivity. But I wondered what life would have been like for the students, staff and administration had the school had to continue without access to all the digital tools at our disposal for an extended period of time, say a couple of weeks. It was certainly noticeable to the students what they were missing over the 2 days. Maybe they were able to put up with it since it was only 2 days and Friday was "Crazy Hat Day", but my guess is that judging from their reactions to not having access to those tools of connectivity that they have come so accustom to in their personal and academic lives, things could be much different if we had to spend any longer without them. Let's hope that doesn't happen anytime soon.




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  • Michelle Cordy

    What an interesting experiment. This is a good way of seeing how interwoven technology is in your building. When you take it away, what remains? At this time, technology and connectivity is augmenting our work and learning. What would this situation look like in a year from now? Five years from now? I wonder whether in 1-5 years the internet being down for two days would be similar to the power being out. Would kids be sent home (as they usually are in a power outage)? Thanks for your writing, it's fun to think about!

  • David

    Thanks for commenting Michelle. It was an interesting couple of days. I remember back in high school when a transformer blew during the day and we got to go home early, so I can relate to your thoughts on the comparison between a power outage and no Internet. Maybe in 5 years they will have a method of getting a temporary fix to give schools connectivity while they fix the major issue. I don't know, maybe some type of portable satellite dish placed on the roof of the school? You're right, it's fun to think about!