Internet down? Punt.

Categories: Philosophy, The Classroom
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Published on: October 15, 2014

I knew I was in for a long day when the first email I read upon waking said our Internet connection was down. I called our provider, and sure enough they had outages all across central Illinois.

That’s when the panicked texts from teachers started rolling in.

"No Internet? Call an emergency day."
“No Internet? Call an emergency day.”

Yes, we’re more dependent upon the Internet with digital lessons and BYOT/1:1 initiatives. However, that doesn’t mean everything has to come to a standstill.

This morning I met with both of my 5th-grade classes, and I planned to do an assessment via Kahoot!, a game-like quiz site. I had two options:

  1. Cancel class and sit by a phone waiting for our ISP to call me back
  2. Use modern technology to solve a modern technology problem

Of course I chose #2. I simply set my smartphone up as a hotspot to serve up the quiz. Rather than try to shoehorn 20 connections through my phone, I divided the classes into teams and gave each team a Chromebook. My phone had no trouble handling the quiz and the responses, and in the end, the students had a lot more fun working in teams and choosing team names like the Geniuses, the Bananamen, and the Doughnuts!!! (emphasis theirs).

We had ten minutes left following the quiz. I didn’t have time or the resources to dig into Google Drive as I planned, so the kids requested to play the classic Heads-Up 7-up. I was reluctant to just make it free time because I only see them once a week. That’s when the students suggested anyone who gets selected has to answer a computer question to play.

I agreed, the kids had a blast, and it still turned into a teaching opportunity when we discussed the computer questions.

An Internet outage doesn’t have to be the end of class, yet it’s one of the first things people cite as an objection to going 1:1 or starting a BYOT initiative. I just counter the objection with similar questions:

  • What if there’s a fire drill that day?
  • What if there’s a surprise assembly?
  • What if half the class is out due to field trips or illnesses?
  • What if there’s a real emergency, like a fire or tornado?
  • What if the teacher was unprepared that day, or is out for a personal emergency or illness?

The answer is simple: class moves on. Whether we realize it or not, we’re always overcoming obstacles to teaching, and an Internet outage is no different.

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