No Snow Day for You: Log On to Homeroom
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
It has been snowing today around the nation's capital and many area schools have announced closings. But today, kids at Queen Anne School in the nearby town of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, won't be sledding; they'll be surfing. It's a Code C, cyber-school day there. Cyber-school day is a full day of school conducted over the Internet. Temple Blackwood is headmaster at Queen Anne School. He joins us from his home in Davidsonville, Maryland. And Mr. Blackwood, how exactly does Cyber-school day work?
Mr. TEMPLE BLACKWOOD (Headmaster, Queen Anne School, Upper Marlboro, Maryland): Essentially, it's the kids telecommuting and the teachers telecommuting from their homes, and having an instructional day of school.
BLOCK: And specifically, what would they do?
Mr. BLACKWOOD: We begin - as any other good day of school - with taking attendance. They have to log in. They have to check in with each teacher. And depending on the nature of the teacher's design for the class for the day, there may be some live IMing going on as part of the class, or there may be assignments and interactions between the teachers and students for the day until our usual 4 o'clock, 5 o'clock in the afternoon when we're finished with classes.
BLOCK: This means, of course, everybody has to have a computer. Is that ever a problem?
Mr. BLACKWOOD: Everybody has a computer, and happily, more and more, almost all of our students have broadband connections, so that the high-speed audio/video work can go on, and we can do some work with Web cams.
BLOCK: Can you tell at the end of the day whether any real work was done, or whether it was sort of a matter of checking in once now and then, and then going out and playing in the snow?
Mr. BLACKWOOD: Yes. As headmaster, I can tell you that I know more about what goes on and can really validate the worthwhile nature of it on a cyber-school day than I can when they're all on campus, because I can't be everywhere at once on campus.
BLOCK: Mr. Blackwood, have you ever done any informal polling after a cyber-school day to find out how many kids stayed in their pajamas?
Mr. BLACKWOOD: We didn't check on the pajama part…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BLACKWOOD: …but we've had some pretty fun things happened. We have one teacher who did quite a bit of experimenting with live IMing class, and well, his class typically meets at 10:30 in the morning. And they conducted their class on - it was an American literature class on Tom Sawyer.
The interesting thing was there were two class members who weren't logged in on time, and the members of the class took it on themselves to make sure they got on the telephone and got somebody else in those households to get them up and out of beds, so they'd be to class on time.
BLOCK: But no word on the pajamas?
Mr. BLACKWOOD: No word on the pajamas, although we are among those many who a night when it might snow, we are busy wearing our pajamas inside out and backwards to make sure we do have a day off from campus.
BLOCK: Oh, was that like a good luck charm?
Mr. BLACKWOOD: Oh, that's an almost universal good luck charm among the kids. If you wear your pajamas inside out and backwards, you're almost guaranteed of a snow day.
BLOCK: Well, Mr. Blackwood, thanks for taking time out from your cyber-school day to talk with us.
Mr. BLACKWOOD: Well, thank you for noticing. It's a great idea and we recommend it, and we're happy to help anybody that's interested in.
BLOCK: Temple Blackwood is headmaster of Queen Anne School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, which today is observing a Code C cyber-school day because of snow.
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